It's important that we are aware and informed on national and international affairs, which is why read read and watch the news. But it's also important to know what's happening locally in our own towns and neighborhoods.
Local news traditionally has been the cornerstone of local media. It's why we listened to local radio stations -- not just for the music, but to know what was happening in our own towns. It's what we turned the TV on for in the early evening, to get an idea of what happened while we were at work or school. And the real place we turned to for local news was our hometown newspaper. Our daily paper could give us a more in-depth look at and behind the headlines, especially if we lived in a smaller city or town. Years ago, even small cities had their own daily paper, with real local news coverage.
I've decried this trend many times before -- the demise of local news outlets. And it's not just newspapers.
Radio used to be local. Back in the 80s, when the FCC loosened the rules on station ownership and the amount of time stations had to devote to news and information, many stations dropped local news coverage or combined the news organization among the many stations a company like Clear Channel owned in each market. Bottom line: less local news.
TV news, by virtue of the coverage area of its signal, is more regional than local. But cable providers came along with local TV news like News12 and others in many markets, devoting their coverage mainly to a smaller area like a specific county or group of counties. But those news channels are shrinking, as we've seen from recent announcements of staffing cutbacks and consolidation by some of the News12 channels here in the New York area. What used to be News12 Long Island, News12 Westchester, News12 Connecticut is now just News12. Bottom line, again: less coverage of local news.
We've seen local newspapers disappearing left and right. Media giants like Gannett have been cherry-picking struggling local and regional newspapers, buying them and -- again -- consolidating newsrooms, cutting reporters and editors and sacrificing coverage of local news.
Even here in New York City, we're seeing less local news coverage.
The New York Times used to have good regional sections on Sundays, where suburban readers could get interesting background on local news, as well as info on local arts, events and dining. Those disappeared in September with cutbacks, and it's all thrown into one metro section on Sundays, with much less real local coverage of the suburbs.
The Wall Street Journal launched, in the spring of 2010, its "Greater New York" section, to add more localized coverage of news, finance and lifestyle. It was an attempt, I'm sure, to lure some local advertisers for whom the national pages of The Journal wouldn't make sense.
My review of that section a few days after it launched was mixed, since it certainly was a mixed bag back then -- a bit hard to pin down. But the section, to me anyway, found its footing and became a welcome part of the paper. I found myself missing it when I'd read The Journal on out of town trips, where the New York metro section wasn't available.
But here we go again... The Journal just announced plans to trim down its metro section. The official announcement says "it will be a more concise, focused daily report on life and business." That sounds like corporate-speak for "less." Less local news, less local analysis.
The official announcement said there will be "an elimination of some positions." They're going from a staff of 36 for the section down to 16 -- 12 reporters and 4 editors, according to a story in MediaPost. The section used to have as much as 16 pages, but lately it was averaging 6 to 8. Beginning Nov. 14, it will consist of two pages within the main section of the paper. The Journal is also trimming some other sections including the Personal Business section and its Friday "Arena" section covering the arts.
It all means less local news. And that's not good news for any of us.