Kudos and Suggestions for a Local Newspaper

One of the newspapers in my city, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, deserves major props for organizing “town hall” type meetings periodically. (Does your local paper do this? If so, thank them profusely! If not, offer it as a suggestion, and maybe also offer to help with organizing and logistics.)

Most of the town hall meetings have been focused on a specific local issue (such as homelessness, or what to do about blight on Main Street), but the gathering I attended today was a “coffee chat” type event in which citizens were invited to air any concerns they had. A good number of people (100, maybe? More? In any case, many more than were expected) packed Steve’s Famous Diner to voice their views.

On that note, thank you to Steve’s for making our community a better place, and to the News-Journal also for choosing this local, family-owned, community-minded business as the venue for today’s forum. (Extra thanks to News-Journal Editor Pat Rice for treating us to coffee/tea; that was above and beyond.)

My fellow citizens offered various criticisms and suggestions. Here are some:

Criticism: A subscription to the paper edition costs $48 per month. (The digital edition is just $4 per month, as I pointed out, but a lot of people are attached to reading a paper paper. Myself, as much as I enjoy reading printed matter on paper, the sheer volume of a daily newspaper weighs on me from an eco-footprint standpoint. Yes, newspaper can be composted and (at least for now) recycled. But I prefer to read the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the New York Times on my smartphone for a total of just $8 per month!)

Criticism: The paper is full of AP newswire stories and national news, relatively few local stories.

Suggestion: Reduce the number of pages in the paper, and just carry local stories (this would address both of the criticisms above, as the slimmer paper would presumably have a lower price tag). From headlining news, to sports, to business and finance, to lifestyle trends, have it all be local.

Criticism (from a retiree): We retirees need Wall Street information, investment information and advice. The paper lacks it.

My advice to readers (which I did not voice): Subscribe to WSJ or New York Times for that information. If you want investment advice locally, read between the lines of our local paper, and see where disinvestment has led to blight, and how that might become an investment opportunity. It seems like so many people are fixated on Wall Street, that our Main Streets are crumbling. Not saying you can’t keep money on Wall Street, but how about also using some of that nest egg (and the wisdom and experience of your years) to make more of a difference here at home.

My advice to the newspaper: Keep on covering stories of local entrepreneurship and courageous investment, such as today’s story of a father-and-son developer team (in another city, but still here in Florida, so local-ish) who are transforming a dilapidated, druggie trailer park into a safe clean community for everyday people.

Criticism: The articles are too long. (Of course, if there were no long articles, someone else would accuse the paper of lacking in-depth coverage. Anyway, the longer articles provide essential coverage of local issues that is available through no other channel.)

My idea for the paper: Solicit short articles from the general public. Offer some modest payment (say, $10 or $20) for a paragraph or three on any local topic. Anything from a local restaurant review to a Little League tournament writeup, to an article about local wildflowers or edible wild plants, to a historical tidbit about how locals used to build their homes in the days before air conditioning … if you publish it, you’ll pay the writer. Also, have a running “wish list” of articles that you are actively seeking someone to write. If someone writes one of those and you publish it, you’d pay the writer a bit more. All of that could get pretty unwieldy to administer. You could just go totally old-school and go back to having more reporters. If you can’t afford employees, use freelancers.

A local newspaper, with residents’ support, can be a major force for economic revitalization, community cohesion, local resilience, bioregional consciousness. Readers of this blog, wherever you live, I hope you have a good local newspaper. If you do, then support it (even if your support has to take the form of constructive criticism). If you don’t, then consider starting one!

Further Reading:

Daytona Times (I referred to the News-Journal as one of my city’s newspapers. We also have the Daytona Times, “East Central Florida’s Black Voice,” which was founded in 1870.)

Ormond Beach Observer (newspaper of our neighbor to the north)

Saving Community Journalism – articulating the vital mission of community newspapers.