PodTech’s Rio Pesino did a set of interviews with people in San Francisco asking the question, “what’s missing from local news?” The resulting video has a few people on the street interviews and a few snippets from movers and shakers behind Gizmodo, Craigslist, KQED, and other news sources.
The results are a bit skewed, as San Francisco is a pretty tech friendly city. But the question’s worth asking. And it’s a question Topix is continuing to ask on its website.
Topix recently shifted its focus from being a Google News style news aggregater to becoming a social news/citizen journalism hub. For the most part, that means users submitting interesting articles they find elsewhere on the web, much as they do with Digg or Netscape. But the site provides an opportunity for users to report the news themselves and have it reach a wide audience.
One of the interesting things about the Topix approach is that it focuses in on localism. Sure, anything you write on the web can be read all around the world. But that doesn’t mean we should all strive to be globetrotting foreign correspondents. Whether you’re penning your autobiography or reporting the news, the first step is always the same: write about what you know. By all means, learn new things and write about them, but if I’m in Princeton, New Jersey, why would I want to write about Washington DC?
So while Topix is asking people what’s wrong with the local news, they’re also trying to encourage users to help reshape it. Which is great. Because if you listen to the answers people give, they’re not uniform by any means. One person in the Podtech video says there’s not enough happy news, reporters spend too much time telling us what’s wrong with government. Another person suggests that the media aren’t spending enough time on investigative journalism.
Well, you know what? They can both be right. And while it’s a struggle to fit everything into a 30 minute newscast, there’s plenty of space online to tell all of those stories. If you’re interested in positive stories about hugs, puppies, and kittens, why not start a local version of Cute Overload? And if you want to see more investigative journalism, why not start the ball rolling by pitching some ideas to the local paper or trying to dig up some dirt yourself?