I was supposed to make a presentation this weekend to a joint gathering of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the Inland Press Association. I’m not going to make it. And honestly, anything with the word “inland” in it sounds pretty good to me right now. I’m not there because Hurricane Irma is headed toward me, and I’m hunkering down.
“For some reason I trust local reporters more than national reporters. Not sure why that is.”
“Local journalism is there for the right reasons.”
“Local news is more connected to what’s going on in my back yard. It is more factually based.”
That’s what readers, viewers and listeners said when asked specifically about their perceptions of local journalism. As part of the Trusting News project, my 28 partner newsrooms interviewed their own news consumers about how they decide what to trust. One of the questions asked covered expectations and perceptions of local news.
Those quotes are pretty awesome. But you need to also know that most folks didn’t get there on their own.
When local journalists were interviewing their own community members about trust, the conversation didn’t usually begin with mentions of local journalism. Even when sitting down with someone from their local newspaper, many people, when asked about trust, jumped straight to the topic of national political coverage.
When the topic of journalism comes up, people often don’t think first about coverage of their community’s arts events, high school sports, local government or business climate. They think first about “the media” — that impersonal, catch-all term that’s void of humanity and altruism.