russellbeattie 7 months ago

I started my career as a journalist at a small daily paper before moving into tech in the 1990s. As a young reporter - still in college - I got horrible assignments like having to attend local budget meetings, going down to the police station to copy the blotter, sitting in on school board meetings, updating the local calendar and reporting on the high school sports teams, among other tasks. This stuff was boring, tedious and rarely ever generated "news" of anything beyond an informational synopses of the goings on around town.

It didn't matter - the paper was picked up and read daily by thousands of readers. Many read it cover to cover. It's truly an important service to any community. In fact, I would go so far as to say that without a local newspaper an area isn't a community at all. Newspapers traditionally bring people together and provide a sense of belonging and regional awareness and even pride.

This stuff isn't sexy, nor particularly profitable, but it has to be done! Someone needs to keep track of these events, summarize and disseminate this information. Even the most boring, mundane happenings need to be recorded and publicized for well-functioning society. Without that effort, the things happening around us become opaque, and being informed relies literally on word of mouth.

Sadly, pretty much every effort to digitally replicate the services provided by local papers has failed to my knowledge. As a result, I know more about what's happening in London than I do about my home city.

No idea what the solution is, and a lot of people much smarter than myself have tried for years. But what I do know is the long term consequences of small newspapers closing is a lot more dire than I think most people realize.

  • willio58 7 months ago

    > In fact, I would go so far as to say that without a local newspaper an area isn't a community at all.

    As a young (21yr) person in my community, I have to say I have never read through a full local newspaper and don't know a single friend my age or younger who has. The local news channels have websites these days and I would say those, in combination with local public radio, television channels, and even social media are the main source for local news in my town (for my demographic at least).

    I personally don't feel a lack of community due to the fact that this news comes from my computer monitor instead of ink on some rolled up paper, but then again I never really lived in an era when I got to experience that.

    • ethbro 7 months ago

      As someone from the last generation born without ubiquitous web, the biggest difference for me is the definition of community.

      Now, a community is whoever you want it to be. Folks who play the same game you do. People who hate rocks. People who think purple hair is awesome. People who think purple hair is stupid and red hair is awesome.

      The people may live next to you, or they may live in another country.

      Previously, all these people who made up your community were in your town, by necessity. Because of that, you pretty much rolled the random dice and that's who you interacted with.

      Gain (present vs past) -- being able to find a community that's similar to you. Especially if you don't identify with the norm (imagine being the only person you knew who thought computers were cool). Much more rapid dissemination of ideas and social mores.

      Loss -- forced mixing of and interaction with different groups. Exposure to new ideas and different perspectives. Identification with people who aren't like you (but are still "one of us", i.e. from the same town)

      • adrianN 7 months ago

        I think encouraging local communities is pretty important for the functioning of a town. You can circumvent the tragedy of the commons a bit if the person keeping the parks clean isn't some rando, but it's Bob from down the street who bakes those great cakes for the local potlucks and the police officer isn't just someone waiting for an opportunity to shoot your dog, but the mother of your kids classmate.

      • TangoTrotFox 7 months ago

        There's an even bigger one on the loss. In my opinion the phenomena you're describing is related to the rise in groupthink. The problem is as people create communities based around shared ideology, it means that people can be effectively 'exiled' from that community if they say something that may be interpreted as going against that ideology. If your community is defined by shared location, then nothing you can say or do changes that. I think this community from ideology makes people afraid to say what they actually think, for fear that it could unravel their created community connections. There are some major parallels here to how cults sustain themselves, but in this case we've done it entirely to ourselves!

        • pjc50 7 months ago

          > as people create communities based around shared ideology, it means that people can be effectively 'exiled' from that community if they say something that may be interpreted as going against that ideology. If your community is defined by shared location, then nothing you can say or do changes that.

          Small towns are historically far worse for ideological conformance, because once you're ostracized you're stuck.

          • TangoTrotFox 7 months ago

            Community doesn't translate to small town. The reason community would be constrained to your 'town' was a matter of geographic distance. Community is whoever you were surrounded by, and who you interacted with was more or less random. People would end up making friends, often good friends, with others even when they had deeply differing views. Of course had they known the views of the person they were talking to ahead of time, they may well not have even been willing to give them the time of day. Now a days people are able to get that knowledge ahead of time, and it's resulted in this trend towards social homogeneity. And I think there's a very strong argument to be made that that homogeneity is really the source of so many of the social ills of today.

        • icebraining 7 months ago

          I don't think that's true at all; people were and are often shunned and ostracized by their local community for ideological reasons. Sure, they often can't literally kick you out, but they can and do make your life miserable if you don't fall in line, or at least keep your mouth shut.

      • dvfjsdhgfv 7 months ago

        > Identification with people who aren't like you (but are still "one of us", i.e. from the same town)

        This. I miss that, on a small and large scale.

    • zasz 7 months ago

      It's not that the information comes digitally versus in deadtree format. The problem is the destruction of local news, period, which means that you're going to get less of it even in digital formats.

    • pimmen 7 months ago

      I used to consume news the same way you do when I was your age, but now that I'm entering my 30s I consume a lot more local news. I want to feel updated about what happens in the local schools (by far most of that is regulated and budgeted on the local level) not only to know about whether or not this is a good community for raising kids but I also want to feel informed if my colleagues who have kids are affected by something. Same thing with elderly care, public transportation, local business news, and real estate projects. This stuff affects me more profoundly when I'm trying to build a career, raise kids, find a permanent home, and worry about my parents being taken care of as they get noticeably older and weaker. And, of course, as the people I socialize with also worry about this stuff now to varying degrees I want to feel as informed as my peers about the usual topics of discussion.

    • erfgh 7 months ago

      It doesn't make that much of a difference whether you read it on screen or on paper. Still, someone has to write it.

  • grahamburger 7 months ago

    I know I'm kind of dreaming here, but I think this would be a cool application for ActivityPub / Fediverse. Every town gets an instance with some official accounts (govt, school board, etc) and a dedicated reporting staff to gather tidbits to publish. Because of federation I could follow the news of other places I care about but my identity would be on my own city's instance.

    • Anon1096 7 months ago

      One of the most important parts of any newspaper is that it is independent from the government though. I know in my town officials have openly accused the local paper of slander, and everyone is the better for seeing both sides. Having official accounts is just asking for coverups.

      • grahamburger 7 months ago

        I wasn't imagining that the 'official accounts' would be exclusive accounts or have privileges over other accounts, just that they would be centralized places for those groups to release information. I agree that it shouldn't be run by or have behind-the-scenes influence from the government (or other powerful orgs.)

  • dragonwriter 7 months ago

    > In fact, I would go so far as to say that without a local newspaper an area isn't a community at all.

    And that’d be silly. Communities existed long before newspapers, and they exist for nnplaces too small to support their own newspapers now. And even communities that would have had a newspaper a couple decades ago make do with, e.g., one or mor Facebook groups today, with the boring bits you refer to informally crowdsourced.

  • kuschku 7 months ago

    This is also one of the largest issues with EU politics and elections right now – there’s few EU-wide media, as result, there’s little EU-wide debates, and no real community.

    • philwelch 7 months ago

      Is it even possible to have all of that without a shared language?

      • adrianN 7 months ago

        If only the French hadn't opposed the use of Esperanto as the common language...

        • fwn 7 months ago

          It would be great to have a common language in the EU that close to nobody ever heard of.

          Fun aside, language is not only shaped by culture, but also shapes culture.

          It couldn't get any harder for people to affiliate with the EU if the EU institutions would embrace a foreign, sterile and planned language.

          In fact I think it would only strengthen the resentment against the EU.

          • adrianN 7 months ago

            Introducing a foreign language as lingua franca worked pretty well for India and I'm reasonably sure that there was a lot more resentment for the British in India than for the EU in Europe. I don't think the Indian democracy would be possible without English.

            Esperanto is easy enough to learn that most people could by now speak it as a second language if it had been introduced in schools back when it had the possibility to become the language of politics (that's a hundred years ago now!).

            • fwn 7 months ago

              I did not want to say that speaking a second language to communicate with everyone is a bad thing.

              In my opinion, having one or a few well established communication languages works pretty well right now, although adoption could of course improve.

              My comment was mostly targeted at the concept of Esperanto. As far as my knowledge goes, it is a culture-free designer language made to ailinate people from the literature and thoughts of the past.

              Based on that I have difficulties to see it in a more favourable light.

              • adrianN 7 months ago

                I think you have the wrong impression of the language. Esperanto was made to encourage the sharing of culture, knowledge and ideas over language barriers, not to alienate people from anything.

                Maybe check out the introduction of the book that introduced Esperanto:


                • fwn 7 months ago

                  I have to admit that it has been a while since I have read about it, but reading the introduction right now, it sounds pretty consistent with what I remembered.

                  It states it is neutral, which it obviously can not be. Just because a language doesn't impose current biases (which Esperanto does) that does not mean that it will not impose its very own, new biases.

                  From there it gets highly problematic: The thought that languages shouldn't get translated into each other but should get cleared and isolated by translating them only to and from Esperanto is something you would expect George Orwell to come up with.

                  With this I don't want to say that the current, grown concept (mostly English, Mandarin, Hindu, Spanish, Arabic, etc.) isn't without its flaws, just that Esperanto has those flaws as well, plus its (new) design issues and the dystopian political agenda of its enthusiasts. (Like the culture filter I mentioned from the introduction.)

                  Would you personally see something positive in the adoption of Esperanto compared to the current model? I'm curious.

                  • adrianN 7 months ago

                    Weird how you and I get so different impressions from reading the same text :)

                    It's hard to learn English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Hindi. At least for Chinese and Arabic there is a multitude of mutually unintelligible topolects that you'd also have to learn. Each of them takes at least ten years to master.

                    I'd strongly prefer it if we had one language that most people speak reasonably well. English gets you quite far (outside of Asia at least) but English is a lot harder than Esperanto. Esperanto has a number of flaws, most notably it's too Euro-centric making it harder to learn for people who don't speak a romance or germanic language. There are other conlangs that try to address that deficiency, but they are a lot less popular than even Esperanto.

                    I don't really mind which language wins, but I want to live in a world where I can interact with everybody without having to learn dozens of languages. I learned English reasonably well so I can interact with large parts of the "western" Internet, but that's just a tiny echo chamber compared to all content.

      • kuschku 7 months ago

        That’s the other major part of a community, and a major problem, yes.

  • snarf21 7 months ago

    I think what you describe used to be true. I think that as the boomers die off, local papers will have almost 0 readers. It is a time and era that is dying off at least in the US. Most of this local journalism now is barely more than a tweet even though it is an "article" online. No facts, no research, little more than a headline.

    In the US, the papers won't totally go away because certain things must (by law) be reported in a public data source. I think the thing that the journalism totally missed the boat on was being the source for local entertainment. People always want to know what fun things they can do this week/end with their kids and friends. Having local knowledge is something the Yelps of the world will never be able to do right.

  • protomyth 7 months ago

    > In fact, I would go so far as to say that without a local newspaper an area isn't a community at all.

    In the US, it was the churches that made an area a community not the newspapers. As the churches have faded nothing has replaced them. Newspapers supplemented what was discussed informally in gatherings.

    Frankly, local newspapers that didn’t remember that they served locals and either tried to preach or kept republishing national news outlets when it became obvious national news was available elsewhere doomed themselves.

    • maxerickson 7 months ago

      My small town had a Catholic church for like every 4,000 people (and many other churches too). I think other poster is talking about communities of tens of thousands. I don't think you are talking about the same meaning of community.

      • protomyth 7 months ago

        I’m talking about the overall coverage provided by groups of churches. Larger towns had interlinked churches. Even small towns had multiple churches that cooperated.

  • sjg007 7 months ago

    The future is probably an AI aggregator that takes meeting minutes and summarizes them. Then every public event / happening gets posted to Facebook. The one journalist turns into the content creators themselves themselves. Maybe someone like Facebook could geofence sites and aggregate them into something like My Town.

    • freehunter 7 months ago

      I'm actually working on a project similar to this, using an AI to generate local news articles. The problem with this is every town does it differently, and some do it so awfully that getting anything of value from the minutes takes a lot of work for a human who was actually at the meeting itself.

      For example, my town doesn't publish its meeting minutes online for three months. I can get the minutes in person the week after, but by then the once-weekly newspaper has "scooped" my AI because they had a human there. And even after I get the minutes, oftentimes the note will say "approved PUD conversion from C-2 for [Business X]. Motion from [Councilmember Y] seconded by [Councilmember Z]". Without knowing the discussion surrounding that decision, the minutes are dry and would produce an even drier news article.

      I've tried to work with other area towns as well, and many of them don't put their meeting minutes online at all. The most reliable council meeting notes come from bigger cities, which don't need an AI to write their news for them.

      • sjg007 7 months ago

        Maybe do voice transcription in towns that record video of their meetings.

    • a3n 7 months ago

      I think the future is just as likely civic disengagement.

      • trentlott 7 months ago

        Yes. I think the last US Presidential election is a small taste of the future rather than an aberration.

  • 2038AD 7 months ago

    >I would go so far as to say that without a local newspaper an area isn't a community at all I would say the opposite. If members of a community aren't aware of the goings on, they don't have that 'regional awareness', it's not much of a community. A daily newspaper is only needed if people aren't informed. Daily is too often for the news to simply be a supplement for word-of-mouth that is the medium of a genuine community.

corysama 7 months ago
  • Shivetya 7 months ago

    this must only really work in small communities as most larger cities are pretty much immune to monitoring except corruption.

    anecdotal, in Atlanta we tend to see the local TV news doing a lot of investigation with one partnered with the local paper (AJC). They tend to focus on corruption more than costs of city programs. However the one expense they never ever will touch is how cities are getting buried by pension costs to where even the pension systems are threatened. (Chicago's system will be out of money by 2021) too rich of benefits and more retirees than active is to much of a burden

    • freddie_mercury 7 months ago

      > this must only really work in small communities as most larger cities are pretty much immune to monitoring except corruption

      You are wrong, didn't read the link, don't make any arguments about its findings, and don't offer any evidence for your claims.

      "To further account for within-state cross county variation, we control for county-level differences in population, population growth, per capita income, and employment growth."

      Was it really so important that you say "this study is wrong" and share your personal anecdote that you couldn't have spent a few minutes reading it first? Commenting on HackerNews isn't a race and the level of discourse usually goes up when people aren't in a rush to comment.

      Is sharing a personal anecdote on HackerNews with strangers more valuable than learning something new?

  • dsfyu404ed 7 months ago

    When nobody guards the guards the guards screw off and waste resources.

alienreborn 7 months ago

> "Oh, to be a state or local official in America over the next 10 to 15 years, before somebody figures out the business model," says Simon, a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun. "To gambol freely across the wastelands of an American city, as a local politician! It's got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption."

-- David Simon (Creator of The Wire) on the necessity of local newspapers which are quickly disappearing.


simplecomplex 7 months ago

News is no longer what a local paper publishes. It's the latest Instagram story from your friends. It's the Facebook post from a local school informing parents of a PTA meeting. It's the Twitter status update from the President. It's a Reddit post discussing problems with the latest MacBook keyboards.

Why is the newspaper dying? Because updates about what is happening in people's world is no longer constrained by what is published in the local paper! And everyone involved in the old industry still can't wrap their minds around it.

The newspaper was a medium for communication. The World Wide Web is a medium for communication. News didn't die, but what constitutes news is no longer defined by what the local paper decides to publish.

  • LocalPCGuy 7 months ago

    The difference is, the newspaper paid professional reporters to write the news. They did a fantastic job (in most cases) of making sure they had their facts straight, and local news broke most of the big stories you eventually heard about on national news sources. Even today, a LOT of the national news starts at local news sources, either papers or local channels, but that is getting worse all the time due to the cuts.

    Instead, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc. you get a flood of "news", but you have to vet it all yourself to see what is true and what isn't. And many many people don't do that - if they trust the person sharing, they trust the "news". Or if it agrees with their world view, they trust the "news". Sometimes amazing things are covered - live Reddit threads have broken some amazing stories, with details from local residents. Same with Twitter, etc. But for every one of those stories there are 100s that are fake, or actually pushing alternative narratives that are not based in reality for their own ends. And that flood is just too much for the average person to actually separate the fact from the fiction.

    Social media does not equal journalism. That isn't "old industry" thinking. That is just a sad fact.

    • Animats 7 months ago

      "The difference is, the newspaper paid professional reporters to write the news."

      Not write. Gather. The whole point of reporting is someone going out and collecting news. Not someone who already has it issuing a press release. “Whatever a patron desires to get published is advertising; whatever he wants to keep out of the paper is news." (Attributed to many, but seen as a desk sign on some newspaper editors desks.)

    • Retric 7 months ago

      Every time I have known what was going on and read a local newspaper covering it there has been a host of errors. Local news is ok for having a vague idea what's going on, and little else.

      So sure, there is some value there. But, less than many people seem to think.

      PS: OK, local movie showtimes where generally correct.

      • ethbro 7 months ago

        I typically find a large amount of information that simply doesn't exist online in my local paper.

        And don't get me started on ranting about Facebook trying to hamfistedly assume that mantle.

    • simplecomplex 7 months ago

      It turns out, many people find curating their own updates that are relevant to them from the web more valuable than spending money on a newspaper.

      • ethbro 7 months ago

        I believe the parent's argument is that people are terrible at "curating their own updates that are relevant to them from the web."

        And that having a voter base which exclusively does so is antithetical to objective truth and a functioning democracy.

        • simplecomplex 7 months ago

          I am part of the voting base, and I much prefer having greater choice in what I read and where I consume my news. I'm more informed now than I was before the Web. I'd prefer not to go back to a world where the only source of current events was the newspapers and television.

          • wavefunction 7 months ago

            Who's arguing that? You can get important local news from a newspaper/local journalist source and still 'self curate' your own interests. Millions of people are already doing this.

    • EGreg 7 months ago

      Have you seen wikinews? Their selection of topics and reporting may be much broader than what you are used to on your local news channel. If you even watch that.

  • r00fus 7 months ago

    Aside from the obvious "fake news" dilemma (i.e. How do you trust your aggregated news sources), the unsexy but important data (i.e. Data supporting Quadrant 2 activities ) is not being collected.

    This leads to a less informed public, at least locally. Any of the "local" social sites (i.e. Patch/etc) seem to wither or get consumed by politics (national/international) spam (commercials) and propaganda.

    The internet of today lacks trustworthiness (probably an engineered outcome).

    • simplecomplex 7 months ago

      I disagree. Speaking for myself, I am far more informed because of the Web than I was before the Web where my only option was the newspaper.

      Yes, a lot of people prefer to read updates on the Kardashians, just like people prefer to do the crosswords and read the funnies.

      • ethbro 7 months ago

        I'd argue the difference is in degrees.

        With a paper, I can't ignore the front page. On the internet, I can easily cocoon myself in a bubble that exclusively agrees with me.

        Which isn't to say I'm suggesting the Luddite path. Change has come and society must adapt. But we (and specifically, Facebook and Google) need to do better at realizing what's being destroyed and replacing it.

        • simplecomplex 7 months ago

          People ignored the paper. Some people only watched cartoons and MTV, or the shopping channel, or daytime soaps. I was alive before the Web, and I don't feel the average person was more informed than they are today. I think it was easier to live in a bubble before the Web.

          Reading inane clickbait on Facebook and being informed aren't mutually exclusive.

          • h_r 7 months ago

            I think one of the big differences is that it's easier now to be in a bubble where you believe nearly all "reasonable" people think like you because it's all you ever see due to reality filters.

  • pretendscholar 7 months ago

      A Facebook post doesn't cover the PTA meeting and compile what occurred. A twitter update from the president is national news and just a snippet where an article about the tweet would provide a larger context about what he's talking about.  Reddit is so likely to be astroturfed by big companies that it is becoming increasingly misinformation.
  • nerdponx 7 months ago

    Why is the newspaper dying? Because updates about what is happening in people's world is no longer constrained by what is published in the local paper! And everyone involved in the old industry still can't wrap their minds around it.

    This is simply not true. There is a huge demand, perhaps now moreso than ever, for trustworthy sources of consolidated information about current events. I don't follow Trump or the White House on Twitter. I don't follow Apple news on Reddit. I don't attend PTA meetings and I don't follow them on Facebook. Do you expect me to start doing all those things to replace reading the paper?

    • simplecomplex 7 months ago

      I don't expect you to do anything. I was explaining why the newspaper is dying: Because people (in general, in aggregate) are preferring other forms of communication. It's obvious that in a world where the newspaper is your only option for "updates on things happening that are relevant to you", that it would do better than in a world where there are many more options to fill that need.

      The number of Americans reading print newspapers has been declining since the web became popular. The average age of a newspaper reader is somewhere north of 55.

      • r00fus 7 months ago

        You keep stating your point without addressing the arguments against them.

        When people are being paid for the express goal of gathering such data in as unbiased way as possible - how can that be replaced by pure crowdsourcing?

        • fallous 7 months ago

          Because the audience does not value the "gathering of such data in as unbiased way as possible" enough to make it economically viable, so instead crowdsourcing suffices.

          Local newspapers are dying largely due to a change in the audience they once depended upon. This isn't an argument about "better" in some objective manner but instead an observation of the reality of the situation.

          • musage 7 months ago

            Then the focus should be on how to secede the people who still care from those who apparently fucking don't. Peaceful or otherwise.

        • PeterisP 7 months ago

          It most likely can't be replaced by pure crowdsourcing, but that doesn't mean that newspapers will stay as the mans for "people being paid for the express goal of gathering such data in as unbiased way as possible", all it means that such activity likely will not be properly replaced as newspapers and journalism declines.

        • fjsolwmv 7 months ago

          Why are you assuming its unbiased?

    • PeterisP 7 months ago

      There is a desire for "trustworthy sources of consolidated information about current events" and they are important, however, the economic demand for them is low and falling as clearly shown by the fact that people are becoming less willing to pay for that. If you look at what the majority of people do, instead of what some people say, then it's obvious that the willingness to pay for such information is definitely not huge, and now moreso than ever the demand for this is falling - the people choose to do without trustworthy information and prefer free news tidbits that match what they want to hear.

davidw 7 months ago

In my town, there's still a local paper, and they send out that one person, who is reasonably neutral, to report on what happens during, say, city council meetings. Without that person, you just have what the councilors say, what Angry Neighbors report (the parking! won't someone think of the parking!), or maybe a long, long, tedious recording that no sane person can sit through to make heads or tails of what happened.

That's super important stuff and has a lot more impact on my life than many things in DC.

From the article:

> Susan's a Daily Camera subscriber, but she mentions Boulder's local paper recently raised the subscription price by 25%.

This is, in part, a result of tariffs by the Trump administration:

  • vkou 7 months ago

    For a few years, I was that person in my village.

    At least, I like to think I was neutral in my writing. There were two political cliques, and one of them occasionally behaved in incredibly jerkish ways (And would regularly have between 0 and 40% of the council seats).

  • lurquer 7 months ago

    How much is due to the tariff?

kalleboo 7 months ago

Sweden had the same problem of local newspapers shutting down in the 50's and 60's, and introduced a system of press support where the government directly subsidizes newspapers to keep competition available

  • ravenstine 7 months ago

    Doesn't that create a conflict of interest?

    • kalleboo 7 months ago

      It's a bit more complicated than that.

      Rather than try or pretend to be neutral, Swedish newspapers tend to outright state their political affiliations/biases. (e.g. "Skånska Dagbladet is close to the Centre Party"[0] "Aftonbladet describes itself as an independent social-democratic newspaper"[1]). This results in the newspapers having protection of the parties they support, rather than the legislature-du-jour, and an attempt by the government to influence an opposing newspaper would quickly gain political attention.



moorhosj 7 months ago

Pew found a 35% decline in reporters covering statehouses from 2003 to 2014. This is a scary lack of information for voters and watchdogs.

==Less than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter—full time or part time—to the statehouse. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, only 30% of the 801 daily papers it monitor send a staffer to the statehouse for any period of time. In Massachusetts, whose capital is the largest city (Boston), just 6% of the state’s newspapers have any reporting presence at the statehouse—the lowest percentage of newspaper representation of any state.==

katzgrau 7 months ago

A number of comments here are along the lines of "I'm more informed today than I was before the web, no problem here."

You're probably more informed on the whole, but there are fewer and fewer eyes watching our elected officials and shining lights into dark places.

A strong and free press is critical in maintaining a healthy democracy. Support your local papers or hyperlocal bloggers if you see them doing good work - you and your community will benefit in the long term.

  • wmeredith 7 months ago

    People are more informed about sensationalist clickbait bullshit and national news that depresses and enrages us because that’s what gets “shared”. But people don’t know their neighbors. It’s sad.

  • kingofhdds 7 months ago

    "Press" is just a technical method of information dissemination which certainly can become outdated. Democracy needs freedom of speech and expression.

    • katzgrau 7 months ago

      Kind of a weird nitpick there. Democracy needs someone working to uncover things that the public needs to know to make informed voting decisions.

      • kingofhdds 7 months ago

        "Someone uncovering things" appears because in an environment where free speech is not suppressed political, economical, and ideological competitions create incentives to do it. Is it a newspaper, a TV channel, a blog, social network, telepathy, or something else which is used to disseminate information then is a purely technical issue.

        • katzgrau 7 months ago

          Just because free speech is possible doesn't mean someone will take up the role of investigative reporter

          • kingofhdds 7 months ago

            Incentives -> someone will.

msie 7 months ago

In my town both the major newspapers are owned by one company. That one company also laid off a lot of reporting staff and saved money by using syndicated content in both papers.

It's sad to see how less diverse the opinions are. We are just being told what to think now.

  • Accioni 7 months ago

    Yeah, similar here. It really sucks.

shoguning 7 months ago

> But nationwide, there's been no mass replacement of local newspapers. Non-profit online sites are largely based in major metro areas.

Is this really true? I've heard of at least a couple of non-profit newspapers opening in small towns including the one I'm from, and I don't really pay that close of attention to this stuff. For enterprising journalists there are a lot of people willing to pay/donate to these causes. Optimistically, the funding can move from ad/subscription more to donations/grants and the local reporting can continue.

  • exotree 7 months ago

    It is very true. And a journalist can’t do the job of being a journalist if they have to spend hours in city council meetings in addition to wooing subscribers. This business is tough.

a3n 7 months ago

It's odd that newspapers are dying because their old business model, ad support, has gone away, but Facebook and Google thrive on ads.

  • mrweasel 7 months ago

    Facebook and Google are outliers. Your average website (if there is such a thing anymore) with 10.000 - 100.000 aren't thriving on ads, they struggle to survive as well, at least the for profit sites.

  • mudil 7 months ago

    GoogleFB thrive on ads because they violate privacy. Say I am from Springfield. Normally, the newspaper would show the ads for Springfield businesses. Now Google shows the ads for Springfield businesses on Candy Crush Saga. The same effect happens to specialty, niche publications. I am running a medical technologies site aimed at doctors for 15 years, and we can barely stay afloat. Google violates privacy and thrives on ads, but people that actually create the content are suffering. I call it the Google's War on Journalism.

    PS To be sure, Google learned that our readers are doctors from our site and related sites. Now, Google shows them doctor-related ads on Candy Crush Saga. How's that for fairness?!

  • megaman22 7 months ago

    Facebook and Google have the eyeballs, so their ad space is perceived to be valuable. Newspapers... don't. In the Boston area, the Herald just went under this year, and apparently the Globe has less than a million daily readers. And the Globe is a major, flagship paper. But, as with the Globe's ownership's other major concern (The Red Sox), they're catering to a graying, aging, dying audience.

ramblerman 7 months ago

The biggest loss to newspapers imo is the fact that they got just 1 chance every day to publish their articles.

It was harder to spy on what the other was doing, unless you wanted to be a day behind them. This allowed people to come up with more original opinions, and less hivemind behavior that you see with the constantly updating/mutating articles online.

jackfoxy 7 months ago

There may be hope for automating the dissemination of local and state government information and news when agencies use services like The problem is still getting this information to venues people will notice and pay attention to. This will still probably come down to social media. In many ways social media is taking the place of local newspapers.

kingofhdds 7 months ago

If taxi drivers were in the same way connected to social studies people as journos are, we would be reading laments about oldschool taxi services as a cornerstone of society now.

EGreg 7 months ago

I am gonna say it...

In my experience there are three systems to organize human behavior:

1) Democracy. People vote for one policy that is then enforced for everyone. This is ok and worked in history but not as good at making progress and building wealth than the next two.

2) Capitalism. This is where people have unlimited private ownership of whatever they make and it is enforced using force. It has been much better than democracy at moving things forward, because there is competition among sellers, and they fill different niches. There is far more variety and innovation.

3) Collaboration. I think ultimately this wins out. Science. Open source. Wikipedia. They beat patents, closed source, and encyclopedia Britannica. It takes a while to get started but in the end, open information where anyone can add something without getting hit over the head beats closed competing systems.

I think that if self driving cars would be done in a collaborative way instead of competitive way, then people would not get killed as much because they’d work out the kinks sooner. But then Waymo’s investors wouldn’t make as much money.

Cryptocurrency is ushering in a revolution in that open source can actuallu be paid for by having the original authors have a token sale to the first customers, and then there isn’t any more rent extraction like with VC funded centralized companies. It is also better for the end users whose data is only decrypted at the edges, thus they can trust the network not to get hacked, snooped in bulk, have information asymmetry, close their account, take down their website etc.

So when it comes to news, something like a wikinews for each community would be far superior at getting things going. Already citizen journalists can take photos and videos of the events in their neighborhood. Why do we need people risking their lives going to a dangerous area for the “prestige” when the locals can document it and an uncensorable network can carry images to other countries?

I would say that humanity will progress to #3 for most things and automation will eventually take over and UBI will pay for people’s needs. People will collaborate and the era of individual achievement (Mozart, etc.) will be in the past.

  • kanox 7 months ago

    Is this trolling?

    • EGreg 7 months ago

      Why would a relevant, detailed post that explains everything it is talking about with examples, clearly be trolling in your view?

      I am guessing because it contradicts your free-market ideology?

      Keep going with the lack of capitalist funding for news. Open source is socialism, and everyone knows socialism failed in the USSR and China, and USA is the land of the free, first you have wikinews next thing you know you have gulags!

      • Robin_Message 7 months ago

        I think the idea that crypto currencies are the necessary and sufficient innovation to bring in citizen news and a collaborative utopia (I'm exaggerating, but that's how it came across) lacks credibility and could be read as satire, hence the downvotes. I've vouched personally as whilst this idea is terrible, it doesn't seem flag worthy.

        • EGreg 7 months ago

          Hold on. You don’t even need crypto-currencies. Nowhere did I imply they are sufficient, either.

          People have been contributing to wikipedia without any crypto currency rewards, and it is far superior to Britannica in scope, breadth and level of bias. Same with Linux vs Windows, WebKit vs IE, etc. Why would the same not be true of news?

          Capitalism is failing as a model for generating the long tail of news. Open source is notoriously great at the long tail. This was true 20 years ago too. And you downvote because you think I said crypto currencies are necessary and sufficient?

          Some jokers flagged my post and every response that agreed with it. Is that normal? There is some kind of new activity on HN that attacks things they disagree with using inappropriate measures. That’s what you should be worried about.

          How does one vouch for a post btw?

          • Robin_Message 7 months ago

            I didn't downvote, just trying to explain how post came across and why that might be a reason for downvotes.

            Open source works because working code is working code. Wikipedia might be an edge case, and even there politics and lobbying are pernicious. Citizen news sounds good, but it seems like people prefer consuming filter-bubble, prejudice-confirming clickbait, so I'm not hopeful.

            Vouch shows when you click into a flagged post and have enough karma.

  • SubiculumCode 7 months ago

    Because reporting involves more than just a cellphone video. It involves understanding and reporting of the context, and not just local context either.

    • hanshan 7 months ago

      So, a subject matter expert with a cellphone video?

      • SubiculumCode 7 months ago

        Well sure. But expertise takes time and money.

        • hanshan 7 months ago

          Time is more important than money, and expertise does not depend on the funding of a newspaper or media company

          • SubiculumCode 7 months ago

            Money gives you time. If you aren't being paid to do the journalism then you are getting paid to do something else, or you aren't getting paid at all, which sucks.

            • hanshan 7 months ago

              >Money gives you time.

              Being alive gives you time.

              >If you aren't being paid to do the journalism then you are getting paid to do something else

              Yeah, you're getting paid to do whatever it is you're a subject matter expert in.

              Reporting on it in important situations is simply a public service which people do all the time with blogs and such.

              Implying people only want to do things if they're paid money is silly.

        • EGreg 7 months ago

          You may be greatly underappreciating how a large group of people, each contributing a small change, can manifest collective expertise far exceeding one or two hired experts. There is also far less bias in the final product.

          Yes, it takes time and money. But it is not concentrated in a few individuals that are paid by someone. It is actually made up of thousands of small contributions, from people who know something.

          CASE IN POINT

          I started this article back in 2005 I believe, while I was a math grad student in NYU. I went on to do other things besides math. The article is now much more expanded, each diagram improved several times, the Talk page discusses various things, all over the span of years with dozens of experts contributing.

          I still like to come back and see that a tiny bit of the original language and page structure I put together has remained, but a lot of it is simply beyond what I knew at the time and certainly what I know now about it.

    • EGreg 7 months ago

      And of course, only elite “experts” hired by a company can be trusted to figure out the context. A group of actual citizens working together on a wiki cannot possibly match the insight of a single pundit. Oh wait...

      Like Britannica is so much better than Wikipedia.

      Which do you think has less bias, wikinews or fox news or cnn?

      And then of course there’s this:

  • pdfernhout 7 months ago

    Thanks for your insightful post and those three levels. The map on to other things I've written on my website about fostering a mixed economy with a healthy balance of of subsistence (DIY), gift (cooperation), exchange (capitalism), and planned (democracy) transactions.

    There is so much local energy available -- but it is so often (mis)directed towards other areas -- like "supernormal stimuli" created by a few to concentrate attention and wealth.

    As Rene Dubois said: "Think globally, act locally, plan modestly".

    Here is something I wrote to the Markle Foundation in 2001 (17 years ago!) on funding FOSS for people cooperating on self-driving car software and other things (BTW I was referring there to CMU students there who even back then I was told were using such software on public roads): "Consider again the self-driving cars mentioned earlier which now cruise some streets in small numbers. The software "intelligence" doing the driving was primarily developed by public money given to universities, which generally own the copyrights and patents as the contractors. Obviously there are related scientific publications, but in practice these fail to do justice to the complexity of such systems. The truest physical representation of the knowledge learned by such work is the codebase plus email discussions of it (plus what developers carry in their heads). We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process? Open source software is typically eventually of much higher quality [ ] and reliability because more eyes look over the code for problems and more voices contribute to adding innovative solutions. About 35,000 Americans are killed every year in driving fatalities, and hundreds of thousands more are seriously injured. Should the software that keeps people safe on roads, and which has already been created primarily with public funds, not also be kept under continuous public scrutiny? Without concerted action, such software will likely be kept proprietary because that will be more profitable sooner to the people who get in early, and will fit into conventional expectations of business as usual. It will likely end up being available for inspection and testing at best to a few government employees under non-disclosure agreements. We are talking about an entire publicly funded infrastructure about to disappear from the public radar screen. There is something deeply wrong here."

hsthompson3829 7 months ago

There is no such thing as a "journalist". They are activists paid to advance the interest of the corporation they work for. I feel sorry for those who fall for the old "objective journalism" canard, it's laughable.

EGreg 7 months ago

I wrote an extensive comment as to why I consider the capitalist funding model for news to be suboptimal and not resilient in the face of the Internet. I described an alternative in terms of collaborative efforts like wikinews, user-submitted content, and fact checking and analysis as a community effort. It tried to be as detailed and helpful as possible in a reasonable space.

It was downvoted (fine) and then flagged and killed. Also replies to it that agreed with it were flagged even more and killed.

My question is - why was it flagged? Can anyone explain? Is it because it suggested a non-capitalist approach to news? Or because it made a broader point? I really think the “flag” feature should require an explanation.

1996 7 months ago

Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

User23 7 months ago

It’s not surprising that a business based on providing printouts of yesterday’s wire stories plus classified ads isn’t doing well.

  • ghaff 7 months ago

    My town had a local newspaper for a while which went away. Now I have basically no source of information about local planning, zoning, etc. board meetings. I suppose I could more regularly attend town meetings and so forth but that often isn't really an option.

    • qubax 7 months ago

      Your town/municipality doesn't have a website with all that info? Granted, most town websites are horrid to navigate, but the information should be there.

      • vkou 7 months ago

        Even when there is a website with meeting minutes/notes/bylaws/zoning info, it's really helpful to have someone who knows what the government is talking about to sift through, and highlight the important bits.

        Likewise, I can go down to the river, and start taking water samples, to figure out whether or not the local factory is polluting the waters. I'd really rather not, though.

      • ghaff 7 months ago

        Not really. There's no consistent source of information about upcoming issues, votes, etc. There is info about upcoming meetings but then you need to personally attend.

      • ethbro 7 months ago

        There's a lot of information that flat out doesn't make the internet.

        And in most towns, it's been my experience that decisions are usually already made by the time it is.

        The local political beat used to mean going and sitting through council meetings. Now there's no one reliably doing that.

      • tcbawo 7 months ago

        Facebook groups + alderman + local FOIA by activist citizens is what has been developing here.

    • ianmcgowan 7 months ago Though mine seems to be filled with people complaining about things, and lost dogs...

      • ghaff 7 months ago

        It's a 7,000 person largely rural town. There's the occasional piece on wickedlocal but basically nothing systematic.

        • sjg007 7 months ago

          My small town has a Facebook group that’s been filled with trump trolls. It’s disheartening.

    • beamatronic 7 months ago

      Nextdoor can fulfill that role to some extent. As long as someone cares enough to post.

  • presidente20 7 months ago

    It's surprising that the BBC think it's surprising.

    • fludlight 7 months ago

      I wonder what the local news situation is in the UK.

  • chrisseaton 7 months ago

    Do many local stories appear on the news wires?

    • shanecleveland 7 months ago

      No. The point being made is that many smaller papers, which are mostly owned by large publishers, have some original, local content with the rest being non-local wire stories.