Community Journalism

Addi Tarr
3 min readDec 15, 2020

In a changing world with endless amounts of entertainment at your fingertips, many journalists are adapting to media convergence to keep the news industry alive. Journalists are now able to use photographs, videos, graphics, podcasts, and other means to deliver a story, rather than simply covering it all in writing. Social media has also opened a window of possibilities — such as communicating with consumers — that was much more difficult in the past.

Media convergence has altered everyday life by making news easier for anyone and everyone to access. Instead of waiting to watch the 9 o’clock news or purchasing a newspaper to stay informed on the day’s events, people can now pull out their laptops, cell phones, or tablets and go to the TV station’s website to get headlines in real time.

Because of these changes in journalism, many forms of journalism — such as community reporting — have lost the traction they once had. Instead of tuning in to their local news station, many readers choose to read at a more national news level.

While local media has the ability to switch to an online media convergence forum, few small town news stations have done it well-enough to impress their audience. The readers who are loyal to a certain local paper are typically older in age and would prefer a non-electronic copy of their morning news, and the younger generation has more faith in bigger news corporations than in community reporting.

Take the Bowie News for example. In this town with a population of 5,000 residents, many with an eye trained for journalism would consider a paper copy of the Bowie Newspaper as “average.” The writing is decent and the stories are what you would expect. The website however has very few articles, each article is usually no more than 5–10 sentences. Photos are included in several of the articles, but no hyperlinks. Most articles end with, “Read the full feature in your weekend Bowie News.”

The layers on this page were very few, a majority of the content could be found on the homepage. The website was fairly easy to navigate since it had very little content, but additional coverage or sources could not be found in hyperlinks, and very little to no community interaction could be found in the comments.

How could this possibly compete with Fox News? The answer of course, is that it cannot. However, the local news stations usually involve a unique angle that bigger news corporations do not. They cover stories that affect the residents of your specific community. These local papers have articles about the county fair, the new coffee shop that just opened downtown, and events that most would be uninterested in…unless you live in the area.

For me, it boils down to trust. Take the Bowie News for example, the head editor and main journalist for the town is Barbara Green. The Chief of Police is Guy Green. Barbara and Guy are cousins. Of course, this is not undeniable proof that the paper is biased, but I know personally that if my cousin requested that I not publish something that would stain his reputation, I would take it into consideration out of respect for my family.

I suspect that people who connect these dots would lose trust in the newspaper’s credibility. Is there events that concern the citizens that Barbara Green has failed to cover? Has Guy Green specifically asked Barbara Green for any favors that benefit his position or affect what the citizens think of him? It leaves room for suspicion and distrust.

Aside from that, what are the qualifications to gain a job as a local reporter? In small towns especially, they have less room for indecisiveness when it comes to hiring a journalist than a big city or news station may have. If I, as a journalist, applied for a job in Bowie, Texas I would have a higher chance of getting the job than if I applied to work at NPR or CNN.

This does not mean that community journalism is not vastly important, it just explains why it is dying. It makes sense. People want the truth, especially since the term “fake news” has become a popular phrase. Surely big time journalists have more rules, more training. Why trust a small town Barbara when you could put your faith in a Lester Holt?

For the average citizen, this logically makes sense. For someone who has studies or has a background in journalism, it is known that corruption can be in big news organizations just as easily as it can small.

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