To the Valley News:
The Valley News’ difficulty adapting to the new digital reality may ultimately be a symptom of a deeper challenge in editorial judgment. Like all powerful institutions, newspapers are susceptible to hubris, but ironically less likely to notice.
When newspapers were the dominant source of local news it was perhaps inevitable they would conflate the news they choose to print with newsworthiness itself. Cities often had competing dailies to keep this hubris in check.
“Alternative” weeklies blossomed in the 1980’s giving voice to more diverse perspectives than hide-bound newsrooms thought newsworthy at the time.
More recently, local Facebook Groups and community listservs like Vermont’s Front Porch Forum have flourished hosting community news traditional newsrooms don’t bother to cover.
Is it possible the flagging fortunes of many local newspapers today simply reflect a provincial, antiquated, idea of newsworthiness among their editors and reporters?
Seven Days reporter Derek Brouwer began a recent story profiling HereCast by describing the arrest of a registered sex offender living under a bridge in downtown White River Junction. “Most newspapers would have ignored such a story, as the local daily Valley News did…” Brouwer reports, “[b]ut the arrest appeared in the feed of the Upper Valley online news platform HereCast…” Brouwer had no issue with the factual basis for the story, just it’s newsworthiness.
Wouldn’t the prospect of a registered sex offender hiding out literally a block away from your elementary school be newsworthy?
Or were the 1,300+ folks who read the story on HereCast just an instance of the unwashed masses who don’t know any better?
Is it only newsworthy if that elementary school is in Hanover or Norwich? (The Valley News actually published a sex offender story with a Norwich angle the following week.)
Valley News editors and Seven Days reporters are entitled to their opinions. It’s their lack of regard for the distance between what they deem proper journalism and what people find newsworthy they can ill-afford. Why else do so many traditional newspapers blame their non-readers for failing to “value local news” instead of asking what local news their non-readers value?