What makes news local?

Buying a newspaper in a certain area, makes news local. Watching the news on TV in a certain area, makes news local. But what happens when local news can be found online, accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world? Is this still local?

As argued by Ross Hawkes in ‘What do we mean by local?’ The idea of “community” cannot even be described as a purely geographic phenomenon, with many people having a greater empathy and connection to an online social group than to their physical neighbours.

But how many people, who have no connections with a particular area, actually interact on local news sites with comments that mean something? An online local community could still be around, only we assume that because anyone can comment, anyone does.

Interaction has inevitably become a huge part of the news production, and has clearly been a reason for raising debate over whether news can still be local.

But something we need to remember is that interaction is nothing new. Letters to the editor have been in practice for years and there is arguably little difference in the two types of communication.

Of course, writing a letter is a longer process that requires time and effort to think of content worth sending, and online comments can be a result of impulse. But the main thing they have in common is that anyone can contribute.

People are less likely to read a local paper if they are not in the area, but the point is, they still can.

Local news is about creating a community and community shouldn’t be invite only. We have arrived at a stage in journalism where discourse is created on a many to many framework and people want to be involved in the discussion. It is the readers that are arguably maintaining the buzz in journalism and this is something that should be celebrated, no matter what their postcode.

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