What constitutes good local news coverage?

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Jason Truitt, Online Editor of the Palladium-Item newspaper here in Richmond, recently asked what readers are looking for when they ask for more "local news." My response:

For me, a good local news story is one that reflects the things that are happening and the experiences people are having in and around our city and county. For it truly to reflect a local point of view, the story should include the perspectives, thoughts and emotions of local people, and preferably be written by someone who has a local context for (even, dare I say, a personal investment in) why those things might matter.

If it's a story about a local event, the story should give some insight into why the event happened, who made it happen, who it affected, and what it means for the future.

If it's about something good that happened, the story should reflect the resources and time and energy that went into making that good thing happen, who benefits from it, and how it can be built upon or replicated in the future (especially if we as a larger community have some opportunity we should seize).

If it's about something bad that happened, the story should reflect the context that led to that thing happening, who was in a position to create a different outcome, who will be impacted by it, and who is in a position to prevent it from happening again (especially if we as a larger community have some responsibility to bear).

Are stories like "new chain restaurant opens" or "former local resident featured on reality TV show" local news? Sure, they affect us in some way, and they reflect the character and life of our community to some degree. But are they the *most* worthy local news stories? Are they the *most* reflective of who we are and who we want to become?

Maybe not - maybe there are other stories that are more integral to the life of our community now and in the future. Maybe there are other stories that are more substantial, more deserving of the attention than they get. Maybe there are perspectives, thoughts and emotions that aren't represented well or even at all in the typical selection of local stories. Maybe there are ways we can look at what happens here and what's possible here that would really change how we see ourselves, how we think about how to spend our time and energy.

I don't have the answers or know for sure, but those "maybes" are what I think about when I consider whether or not the local media are doing a good job of reporting local news. Unfortunately, in many cases the hopes I have are in conflict with the business model and cultural role that media organizations embrace, and so I often end up disappointed.

If you're interested in local media issues, you might also enjoy my occasional podcast about the same, The Richmond News Review.

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