Friday, February 08, 2008

Local news, redux

Mark Schaver again has some good thoughts about local news, today pegged to the announcement of Google's local news search function: Google News and the dearth of local news.

I tried it too, and discovered a search on the small town where I live finds very little. But then, it's such a small town that even Topix, which Mark discusses, finds little too.

The problem, as Schaver points out, is not the news search engines, but the real lack of news coming from outside the big cities. Weekly newspapers' stories may not show up: In many cases that's because they don't keep -- or even put -- stories online. (Our local Cherokee Scout put only about a half dozen stories online until this past summer's web redesign. But now with two weeks' archive always available it still doesn't show on Google News. Topix has had the stories all along, even showing postings recapping the news from a local blog before the archive became available. But it's still not much.)

Or, even more often, because the news just doesn't get printed anywhere. Topix has relied on blogs to increase the sources, and have set up local news forums so more will be reported.

But, there's little market for small-town news in America. For this reason, there's much to like at the Rural Blog, from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, often mentioned by Al Tompkins at Poynter. It helps to publicize the need for local news coverage. A quick search also finds, an ambitious project started recently, it seems. In North Carolina, I've been intrigued by the FIRE site, the Fund for Investigative Reporting and Editing, set up to help small newspapers in the Appalachians.

There are stories out there. But who is there to report them?

(Updated:) Links to more thoughts about Google's local news search from Jack Lail.

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