Community First

Media's big guys generally aren't doing so well, but as last week's State of the News Media report found, community and ethnic media continued to grow despite the economic downturn. What can all journalists learn from news outfits that focus on the local?

The Online Journalism Review's Robert Hernandez recently made the bold assertion that, "for many, the local newspaper isn't dying - it's already dead." Hernandez argues that "if you are white, and probably a male, you may not have noticed that we've been living in this doomsday scenario for years, if not decades," but that for everyone else, for "African Americans, Native Americans, Asian, Latino… or gays… or under 25… or female… they know that their communities have been, and continue to be, routinely left out of their newspaper." So while the big dailys lose readers and advertisers and cut sections and shed reporters, the smaller, more focused papers are filling the gaps: "The last time I visited a local taqueria in Seattle," Hernandez says, "I found about four Spanish-language newspapers chock full of ads....The community didn't wait for the newspaper to tell their stories or cover their struggles, they did it themselves."


One of the Web's greatest strengths is that it so easily facilitates niche media: set up a site with a very specific mission and purpose, publicize it effectively, and users with an interest or stake in your site's mission will start coming in. But such niche media too often overlooks the local in favor of the global. Community--in all the forms a community can take--and local media outlets serve as fora and common reference points for a location, a community, and creates an atmosphere of interconnectedness and empowerment. These are not just lofty aspirations, but also realistic and necessary, as Hernandez's taqueria anecdote suggests: when a community is underrepresented in the media--as the focus of content or as its producers--they'll just start representing themselves.

Traditional media outlets have largely dropped the ball on serving local communities, for obvious and not entirely negative reasons: they operate on a national or international scale. But by trying to cover news on a national scale they often recreate the power politics of the national stage. This is playing out in interesting ways as mainstream media companies struggle to find ways to maintain the current media system, as Scott Sanders and James Owens explain in their Editor & Publisher Op-Ed: "virtually every emerging model to 'save journalism' presented by...media professionals...reproduces old hierarchies that exclude disadvantaged communities from decision-making." Local and community journalism tries to work against these hierarchies, and may therefore provide workable models for the future of journalism.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, user Infrogmation.

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

The world's richest people could breeze through a climate disaster – for a price.

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report from a United Nation expert warns that an over-reliance on the private sector to mitigate climate change could cause a "climate apartheid."
  • The report criticizes several countries, including the U.S., for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction."
  • The world's poorest populations are most vulnerable to climate change even though they generally contribute the least to global emissions.
Keep reading Show less