Small town journalism

July 27, 2006

Great story in today’s LA Times about small town journalism in Atwater, Minn. The Column One feature tells about a small town left without a newspaper a decade ago. People wanted a paper, so they started one.

For nearly a decade, Atwater had no newspaper. The only way for the town’s 1,047 residents to find out about fires, summer festivals and the latest births was to eavesdrop on conversations at Vern’s Town & Country grocery store.

“Do you know how frustrating it is to be able to get up-to-the-minute information about what’s happening in Lebanon on CNN, but not be able to know what was said at the Atwater City Council meeting?” asked Connie Feig, a registered nurse and chairwoman of the Sunfish Gazette’s 12-member board of directors.

There’s an old joke that in a small town everyone knows what everyone else is doing. They subscribe to the local paper only to see who got caught at it.

But there’s a point here for college publications. When we hear so much about declines in readership, consolidations of media operations, cutbacks in newspaper jobs, we have to remember that people want local news. That’s where our stengths are. If we fall into the trap of covering the same stuff that other, larger publications do, we are doomed. But if we provide news about our community in our stories, in our blogs and on our website that our readers cannot get anywhere else, we will do more than survive, we’ll thrive.

One comment

  1. Mr. Cameron, I read with interest your musings on the LA Times story about our newspaper. Your final paragraph sums up the entire reason I was personally eager to join this venture. With the easy access we have to more information than we even want these days, a 10-page newspaper that we can hold in our hands and read about what’s happening in our own backyard has a better than even chance at success. There’s another old joke about small town newspapers that you might want to add to your list. People don’t read the paper to find out what happened. They already know that. They just want to make sure the publisher got it right.

    Sandy Grussing, Editor, Atwater Sunfish Gazette

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