How I Want My Local News

I’m sick of online news. Especially local news. Local newspapers do one of two things, they batter you with ads (Google Adsense or similar) or they are shockingly short on content. Some are both. “Read more in the Nov 15th print edition.” No thanks, I’m reading the online edition right now because I don’t like picking up a paper newspaper.

Medium

I realize that there are people who have to feel the newsprint in their hand in order to enjoy the experience, but I have always found a newspaper to be unwieldy and difficult. My dislike stems from reading the newspaper as a child and have trouble using my small body to manipulate the big paper. The newspaper was purchased for my dad, and I always had a tendency to  fold, rip, wrinkle, or get it out of order.

Between school and work, I spend a lot of time online in a day. Going to the grocery store (or gas station?) to get a newspaper, then bring it home unfold, refold, and read it seems a lot less convenient to me than calling up a web page (or app) and reading the news I want. Some local papers, The Bellingham Herald for instance, have a lot of their content online. In the case of TBH I can’t say for sure if they have all of their content online, but they do have a lot. Other local papers, The Leader for example, have a pretty limited amount of content online, and are always plugging their paper edition. It is time that the local paper figures out that their online content is not a supplement to their print content. It is time for parity.

I am a firm believer that young people need a stronger voice in the media, and that has to be backed by a stronger understanding of current events. Young people use computers. We like to be able to search within the text of an article. We like relevant past articles underneath a story, just one click away. Traditional media cannot provide that and as a result fails to engage many young people.

Ads

I am not against ads. I actually like them. Being able to access content for free is important to me, especially with trial versions and demos becoming less and less popular. Freemium is the new demo, and I like that. When it comes to online video, Hulu for instance, I could download the videos and remove the ads so that I don’t have to watch them, but I don’t . I want those videos to be there to watch tomorrow, for myself and others. I watch the ads, or at least let them play in the background.

Local papers have no problem plastering their site with ads. The Bellingham Herald is a prime example of this. I was honestly shocked when I discovered they still create a popunder ad upon the user’s first click on site site. The user’s first click (for me, it is on the first article I want to read) isn’t registered on the link, it creates the popunder ad. That means that I have to click twice to get the first article. They use big animated banners that scroll the screen on their own. Both of these tactics destroy the user’s experience with the site. They break the site. The Bellingham Herald is guilty of running so many Flash advertisements that even a powerful computer labors under the load of rendering the site.

Local papers should be running local ads. When I log on to CNN or HuffPo, I expect to see nationwide ad campaigns. When I get on The Bellingham Herald’s page I want to see ads for The Bean Stop, not Hewlett Packard. Excellent coffee at The Bean Stop, by the way.

A better option

I think we need more small blogs/hyper-local news sources. Many will argue that your average Joe is not a trained journalist, but these days what does that even mean? Anyone can buy a copy of the AP Style Guide, what else do reporters know now that isn’t obvious to an astute blogger? I don’t disagree that the overall quality would likely not be as high in this scenario, but I think people would be better informed, especially on local issues that are most important to them.

Anyone want to start a local news blog?