I just read another piece of reporting that made my brain vibrate inside my head (go ahead, read it, I’ll wait. Now ask yourself how the people of Speedway, Beech Grove, Mars Hill, East 10th, or Trader’s Point must feel. Basically it’s a guy waxing about what he wishes his own neighborhood should be like).
I’ve been giving more thought and research to what a “new” news service might look like. My notes, while disparate still, are below.
For now, I’m just going to have to let this project go. Maybe someone else will pick it up and run with it and I’ll wish I had followed through, but it probably won’t happen.
My reasons are many. Like this:
Great ratings don’t come from eight-month special reports on Haiti, O’Donnell said. They come from the television equivalent of must-read newspaper columnists. People tune in to see what their favorite personalities think. “When you get to 9pm in America … what they’re doing with their remote is ‘I want to know what O’Reilly thinks about this. I want to know what Rachel thinks about this.'”
Plus, I don’t have a big network of people. I’ve consistently foregone thousands of followers and Facebook “friends” in favor of something more realistic and manageable. I don’t have access to money and I have a disdain for debt of any kind.
I am unconvinced there are enough people across Indiana interested enough in paying, supporting, or even viewing much from a small team of people that can’t be achieved by an already existing network of blogs and (for now), Twitter.
I described it to someone yesterday like this: “A couple years ago a tornado hit Pekin, Marysville, and Henryville. Has anyone bothered to check back and see if those people stayed and rebuilt? Did they move, and if so, where and why? There was a flap in some counties that new construction was cost-prohibitive to do because old grandfathered-in septic systems now required more expensive updates. What happened with that? Did the State and FEMA do anything to keep or break their promises?”
I want a smart, slow-news source that asks bigger questions and delivers on some useful data and reporting.
I’m pulling a Jony and saying no to this project for now. Though if you’re reading this and want to bounce ideas or be of assistance, by all means contact me.
What does good local news look like?
Local and regional news outlets across Indiana generally report on egregious crimes (murders, rape, aggravated assaults, etc.), traffic accidents — particularly those causing death, and numerous opinion pieces with decidedly understood political biases.
The region lacks a news source that focuses on individuals, storytelling, and reader-friendly design. To name a few examples: TV news stations that have commercial-laden and buggy video playback, news stories limited by paywalls with arbitrary limits, click-bait headlines, ads in slideshows and the middle of articles, and otherwise amateur website layouts.
Readers deserve clean, fast-loading, easily shareable, and easy-to-read stories. Stories that inform, give perspective, and tell a balanced and fair account of conditions or situations.
Stories should include delightful and helpful features like one-page stories, no slideshow galleries (instead placing images in easy to skim thumbnails), estimated reading time, and responsible, scalable, layouts and typography.
What does the business model look like?
Readers should have a tie to their news sources like they do a local co-op grocery store, with minimal advertisements that are unobtrusive and relevant. News should be disseminated freely and treated like a public good, but because writers, editors, and other staff deserve to be paid fairly, readers should feel encouraged and ready to donate or sponsor.
Monthly subscriptions, possibly starting at $19 a month. Donation drives, sponsored posts written about staff.
What else is there?
A weekly one-hour long podcast with a panel of 2-3 people.
The news has no business being a business.