Here’s something I didn’t know before a different local (self-funded) journalist told me; Each council has to produce spreadsheets of all invoices over £500. They need to publish these quarterly but I never knew of this requirement.
Two things strike me about local reporting, which can be applied to most situations:
- there is legislation that covers all/most activities;
- there are other people doing what I do.
Nothing is new under the sun, which isn’t exactly encouraging for trying to find a new topic to write about. But not everyone writes about your patch.
Another thing that struck me as I was reading Gary Younge’s article about the changing role of media, and then watching my children’s YouTube shows with millions and millions of subscribers and views; advertising is still there. It hasn’t disappeared. It just goes to where the eyeballs go.
These advertisers have found a new source of revenue — note the backward nature of that statement in relation to what we are used to hearing about the media.
Newspapers and the media are there to provide viewers and consumers for the advertisers. That’s their job. One thing I noticed in the G&M piece I cited yesterday was that another reason for the breakdown of the left-wing papers is that they did not attract the type of consumers that advertisers were interested in — i.e. lower-income consumers.
You can’t advertise a Rolex watch to people who can’t even afford a holiday, for example.
In the same article, Younge (who has had access to a media platform for decades and so doesn’t consciously think about, I suspect) is quite disparaging or unenthusiastic about social media:”
I try not to reply to people… people I don’t know, or don’t care about. And whenever I violate that rule, I usually regret it. I don’t think Twitter is the real world. It is a part of the world, but it is not the world. And I worry, quite a lot actually, about younger journalists, activist-journalists for whom it is their world.
Similarly, you get these stories about a Twitter storm. I think, well, did it rain anywhere else or was it just a storm on Twitter? And it is very alluring. I understand that people can build big followings, big profiles, and I would never say don’t do it. I use it sparingly.
I see mostly younger journalists get into furious battles and I want to tell them, read a book, take a break, go on holiday. This is taking up too much time and too much energy. You are using it as a proxy for the world. The world doesn’t need a proxy, there is the world so go out.
He takes a very specific position here about ‘journalists’ getting into ‘furious battles’ and by the ‘world’ he I would suggest means the readership. Or at least that’s how it makes sense to me.
The journalists in this case seem to have a platform. They have somewhere to publish their work and have it read. More importantly, they already have access to prominence. Younge was The Guardian’s editor-at-large and long-time U.S. correspondent, [he] left the newspaper recently, after 26 years as a staff writer and 20 years as a columnist.
That’s a long time to have access to something that those of us in the deviant spheres, who can barely get any hits or readers, will never have a hint of. The journalists he talks to are not the journalists I talk to. They are not the ones scouring public-spend spreadsheets out of interest and a desire to do something useful. They are the ones who are paid to do it. If advertisers aren’t interested in the kind of people who care about where councils spend their money, then those journalists [who are told to go find the real world] don’t care either.
The issues once you’ve got a platform are different to when you don’t have a platform. There is a legitimacy to that writing. The topics have been approved by the paper itself. The person with a platform still gets insulted and dismissed but before that, they get heard. They get read.
So when we use social media and blogs to publish what sections of the media with narrow interests [consumer friendly advertisers of a certain demographic] wouldn’t touch then we see things differently.
Which brings up another theme for me. If the media are primarily vehicles for getting consumers to advertisers, then how do local media and national media affect local political participation? What is the literature on that?
One of the first articles I encountered in the communications literature about this tested the hypothesis of a link between property ownership and the local media. The idea is that those who already have a vested interest in the effects of local governments, will be more interested in participating. This makes some initial sense [link].
the idea—vocalized by many political scientists—that demographic variables and ideological differences explain most of the variance in people’s involvement in politics and attitudes was not supported by our data. Ties to the community, social networks, and other communication variables also played a key role. Both the direction and the extremity of ideological beliefs were related to the strength with which respondents held their attitudes on a local issue. Even when these more stable predictors were controlled for, we again found strong influences of heterogeneous discussion networks, local newspaper use, and local political involvement.
The idea examined in this research was whether those who were already interested in local politics would be the ones who participated. The conclusions were that ones social networks and their engagement with the local press affected their political participation.
A question: if there is no media that represents your political leanings are you less inclined to be politically active, and are those who are widely represented by the media, the right-wing capitalists, then more inclined to participate?
There is some data on the variability in ‘non-voters’ in terms of political choice.
So one question I’ll take away with me from this exploration: which topics, suggestions and solutions about topics, do not get coverage in the local press?