Small, local newspapers are great. They are able to focus on more specific issues to a community because they know and continually interact with the news itself. Being from a small “city” and living a cozy college town I can appreciate local newspapers, dailies, weeklies, whatever. However, because I have been a part of these same small communities and newspapers, I can also recognize the problems. There are 3 major issues I have noticed.
1. Features as news. There isn’t always a lot to report in a small town so sometimes a little girl’s lemonade stand or a walk-a-thon may make the news. This is fine, it is part of the community. However, it doesn’t allow a lot of creativity for the reporter or a lot of hard-hitting news for the reader. A way to compat this “features as news” format is to take national issues and localize them. The reporter needs to ask him or herself, “how will this impact my community?”
2. Factchecking? The newspaper that I worked at during my senior year of high school and off and on during my first year of college was the definition of a small weekly newspaper. I loved working there, and to date, I still believe I’ve learned more from my editor there than anyone else. However, the office was tiny consisting of an office manager, editor, reporter and intern (me). Of course we wouldn’t have a fact checker. But there are many other smaller newspapers that also don’t use fact checkers. This becomes a problem with facts such as names, dates and especially figures are misrepresented. Smaller newspapers need to allot time for their reporters to do some fact checking of their own or splurge for a professional, because this creates an unprofessional and unreliable paper.
3. Journalists under pressure. At smaller newspapers, journalists often feel pressured by editors and others to cover events, write briefs, report breaking news and work on other stories. While this is the job of the journalist, it is often overwhelming and can result in less than brilliant writing, errors and a very stressed reporter. Giving the journalist a little more breathing room is possible at a smaller newspaper and definitely encouraged.