Saturday, September 5, 2009

A different way of seeing regional editions by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal - I see it as a possible way to strengthen local journalism

Instead of seeing the possibility of regional editions by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal dealing the final "death blow" to metro dailies, as Rick Edmonds suggests, I think it's possible to see in the strategy a new way to strengthen local journalism.

I'm not saying that the version of metro dailies described in the Richard Perez-Pena story in The Times today makes sense or will have the effect Edmonds fears. Perez-Pena says the Journal is thinking of adding "a parge or two of general-interest news from California, probably once a week, produced by the large staff it already has in the Bay Area." I can't see how that's enough to make a difference to anybody.

But I do think there are possibilities worth exploring in national newspapers working with a regional operation in an online and print partnership. What would happen if visitors to the Journal's Web site from California or the Bay area saw a portion of the site produced by a news team, say affiliated with The San Francisco Chronicle? And, of course, SFGate, would have a window to the Journal as a key source of news on business and the markets. Then the smaller Chronicle team could produce a weekly or couple of days a week newspaper, perhaps distributed with the Journal, with local advertising and inserts. Its principal focus would be digital, delivering news and information to computers and cell phones. The new Chronicle wouldn't need to try to replicate Journal coverage of the nation or the world, or of business. But it would focus on all things California and all things local. I could see an interesting partnership developing, with benefits online and in print. No, the local newspaper wouldn't look like the metro newsroom of old, but it would be focused and it would have a window to the world through its partnership with the Journal's Web site. It could start becoming something new for a new era, starting with being a digital first publication. Of course the same thing could happen in a partnership with The Times. In some ways this might be considered a "franchise" model for the future of local news. Another way to look at it is that the papers would be creating a new, deeper network, or a "networked" model. I see potential worth exploring in partnerships between major national titles and local titles. In some ways, USA Today is best positioned for this approach. First, it's already part of a major newspaper company with papers across the country. Second, it's perceived as the most fair and neutral of the national titles.


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