The transformation of the media industry over the last thirty years has presented severe economic challenges to the newspaper industry.
The newspaper business, fueled by a near monopoly over local advertising for so long, has had to make drastic changes to the way they operate.
Without much, if any competition in reporting local news, many newspapers have been free to focus on their bottom line at the expense of paying attention to their main mission – journalism. In other words, newspapers were faced with advertising competition, but not by news reporting competition.
I remember in the early 1990’s when major state newspapers would send a gaggle of reporters to cover the decisions of the Florida Public Service Commission, which sets water and electric rates for much of the state.
That has since changed. As recently as five years ago, consumer advocates where begging reporters to cover conflict of interest issues at the Florida Public Service Commission.
Now we see major newspapers in the state of Florida not competing for a scoop, but collaborating to save money. The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times have developed a partnership “to help you find the truth in politics” and they share reports on each others blogs.
While these newspapers have been able to collaborate as a way to cut expenses, others have had to make different decisions.
And that brings us to Tallahassee.
Our local newspaper, faced with the economic realities of the media business, has no one to collaborate with to cut expenses.
Instead, smaller media market newspapers, like our local paper, have had to go in a different direction. This direction includes cutting staff in the news room, charging for online access and catering to major advertisers.
In my view, these decisions have not been good for local news coverage.
Reduced local staff not only results in less reporting, but less investigating. Online pay walls mean more money to the Gannett Corporation, but less access for the citizens of Tallahassee. And catering to major advertisers, when your major advertisers are local governments, can easily blur the line between journalistic integrity and the quest for the almighty dollar.
These changes have resulted in the deterioration of the mission of the local media – investigative reporting and holding local elected leaders accountable. It appears that the desire for corporate profits at the local newspaper have turned a blind eye to the true mission of journalism.
I believe it is time for local news competition and that competition is Tallahassee Reports.
Tallahassee Reports, which started over five years ago as an online blog, has been working to expand local news coverage by exploring partnerships with radio and local TV stations. These experiments have helped define what works and have identified new opportunities.
Tallahassee Reports, the print edition, is the latest move to get more people informed about local government decisions and actions that would otherwise go unreported.
Thanks to concerned citizens and the cooperation of local news outlets, Tallahassee Reports has broke stories that have had a real impact on local government.
From deferred compensation, to the ADE story, to Honeywell and smart meters, and now the latest, the Brew Pub at Cascades Park, Tallahassee Reports has a track record of providing important information to the citizens of this community.
Now tens of thousands of Leon County citizens will have free access to a proven news source. Our goal is simple: provide investigative reports on local government issues and detailed analysis on the status of the local business climate to as many readers as possible.