Monday, February 26, 2007

Your hometown paper

Live in Bethlehem and got the itch to write? Well, the blog-happy Times Union has a deal for you. Drop them a line and sign up to be the next online correspondent for the paper.

True, the pay isn't very good. In fact, you probably won't get anything but the satisfaction of feeding them news tips for the print publication. The theory is, the town's populace is best suited to report their own news, especially if their willing to do it for free.

Project Bethlehem was recently touched upon by Michael Huber, the paper's online guru and community publishing editor, when he spoke on Vox Pop, WAMC's daily afternoon call-in show. Paraphrasing his brief discussion, Huber said this community-based blog initiative is a sort of litmus test for and idea to establish similar sites for other Capital Region communities under the paper's masthead.

Lo and behold, the Times Union's Web site now carries an entire "local news section" for the Bethlehem area, as it does for the counties of Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga. But when there isn't pathological sliver-spooned megalomaniac running loose with an ax and a penchant for whacking his parents, things around the Bethlehem area must get a bit mundane for the TU brass; or at least for whoever maintains the Web site, which hasn't been updated in nearly a month.

Here's where local bloggers come in. The TU enlists someone reliable from the working public to maintain a semi-daily blog, then merely monitors the posts for newsworthy content to turn into by-lined articles, thus absolving the Hearst Corporation of having to shell out ducats for a bureau in the town. The blogger gets bragging rights, the community gets its news, the TU saves money and everybody walks away a winner, right?

Not quite. The flailing industry of local journalism is taken down yet another notch. The paid reporters are reigned in just a bit closer to the mother ship, so instead of developing intimate relationships within the communities they live, their writing becomes increasingly fly-by-night; parachute in, grab the story and get the hell out.

But that's been the direction of local journalism recently. Gone are the days of reporters working a municipal beat and growing with a community. Then again, the TU's pilot program for a self-contained local news blogosphere might soon be the only alternative for small communities to get municipal coverage, as dailies continue to downsize and close bureaus across the region.

Who knows? Maybe the TU's pet project will spread to Saratoga County, where daily municipal coverage ends about 10 miles away from the Northway. That is unless the paper happens to be The Saratogian, in which case the trail of news usually stops less than a 100 yards away from Lake Avenue.

3 Comments:

Blogger Les Clutter said...

Isn't the Glens Falls Post Star becoming a Saratoga newspaper, it seems like it. The Post Star used to be the Glens Falls "Hometown" newspaper for Warren and Washington but a year or so ago they started going heavy on Saratoga news covering the city.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Les,

Your observation is correct, but a bit dated. The Post Star was making a dramatic push to edge into The Saratogian's competition about two years ago. In fact, they plucked a good quotient of Saratogian writers to staff their paper. At one point, they had no less than four former staffers on their crew; the bureau downtown was all former Saratogian writers.

Actually, as of late, it seems the Post Star has abandoned its project to conquer Saratoga Springs. Circulation numbers have dwindled for them, like they have nearly every paper in the region. And with a fair degree of certainty, I don't believe they still staff two reporters in their bureau.

Truth is, there aren't many papers that really care about Saratoga anymore. The Times Union has also allowed their coverage to dwindle --seldom if ever are there breaking news stories out of their bureau. Oddly enough, the most aggressive paper in the county is probably the Schenectady Gazette, which still maintains no less than four bureaus with a staff of six news reporters throughout the county, which is equal to the Saratogian's news staff, plus one working for a weekly in Clifton Park.

Oddly enough, about four years ago, the Saratogian once boasted six full-time news reporters in the city and looked to be poised to make a move. But then more hollow heads prevailed and the paper decided to shrink the staff --and the coverage --to earn JRC a few extra pennies.

It's a shame one of these papers doesn't finally realize the market that exists up here.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Daily Gazette has always offered the local coverage of any rag in the area.

Forget about the Times Union. Rex Smith is far too arrogant.

Forget about the Post Star. Kenny sees himself as the Howell Raines (NOT Bill Keller) of the Adirondacks.

Forget about the 'Togian. Journal Register is flat out cheap. They ought to drop Journal Register CEO Bobby Jelenic in northern Baghdad.

With full parachute.

Lips stapled shut.

Wearing a shirt and pants that read on all sides, in Arabic, "Death to Allah and All His Followers."

And sporting a T-shirt that reads, in Arabic, "I Love Torture."

Not that I have anything against Mr. Jelenic, mind you.

12:23 PM  

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