Friday, April 17, 2009

Local Evidence of Mom and Pop Journalism

The past few weeks here have seen a lot of posting and discussion (well, a lot for this blog, anyway) about the future of online journalism, and how newspapers especially need to look for a new model for getting their news online. Part of that discussion has focused on how the Internet has freed people who want to express their voices -- in opinion, news or whatever -- from the cost of the printing press.

During those discussions, I've talked a little bit about what I want to call Mom-and-Pop Journalism, in which a small number of dedicated individuals create a website meant to serve their local community in spreading news. Little did I know that I'd stumble across a fairly good example of that very thing in my own backyard. Behold South Fremont News and Views.

This is a very snappy little Website dedicated to news -- right now, lots of school news -- in the St. Anthony, Idaho area. The city is small -- population of less than 3,000. Traditionally and up until a few years ago, it was served by its own local paper, the Fremont County Herald-Chronicle, where I actually worked for just over a year. At that time, the county actually had five papers covering the area -- the aforementioned HC, the Warm River Journal in Ashton, the Island Park Villager and the Island Park News in Island Park, and the regional Post Register out of Idaho Falls. Several years ago, the Post bought the Journal and the Villager along with another upstart St. Anthony paper called the South Fremont Stand, and turned out the Fremont Current, which ran for about a year and a half before it shuttered. Then a few years after that, Standard Journal, Inc., the Rexburg company that owned the paper, shut down the HC, leaving their Rexburg paper, the Island Park News, and the Post Register as the papers in the area.

Now that the boring history is over, on to the meat: South Fremont News and Views is treading on the localized, chicken-dinner journalism traditional newspapers say will be their saving grace in this Internet age. If I were the local papers, I'd be worried a bit, especially if this site can get a following. Right now, it's fueled, literally, by a mom and pop, a couple I remember vaguely as being civic-minded when I was at the Herald Chronicle. That's going to be the secret of online local journalism -- and the bane of newspapers thinking they're the only ones who can do it.

I've read a few of their stories. They're not necessarily journalism -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing, as journalism, especially for straight news in this area, tends to be a bit on the staid side. But this mom-and-pop group is giving it a good go. A story they've written on the closure of a local elementary school due to the state's financial crisis is just as good as anything I'd expect to read in a local paper. That right there ought to have local print journalists worried. All these folks need is a following, and the print papers will see their subscriptions dwindle.

These folks don't have any ads on their site. It appears they're writing out of a passion to help their community better. That, folks, is the future of online local journalism.

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