The New York Times has a fascinating look at the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World, a newspaper that truly, truly gets the Internet.
They have a daily and a weekly. They host blogs written by any community members who care to sign up (and feature them on the front page of their website), have a database of local music, host MP3s of local bands, webcast local music, maintain a comprehensive community calendar, encourage the posting of comments at the end of every story, have full RSS feeds of all of their offerings, podcast daily news/music/talk, list restaurant information (with their reviews and reviews from the general public), host and promote local films, make available audio interviews with their story subjects, and surely a lot more — every time I click on a link, I find something else.
Of course, they include all of the things that other newspapers include — classifieds, obituaries, etc., etc. But they’ve gone way beyond the self-imposed constraints of what it means to be a newspaper — they’re a film distribution company, a radio station, a blog host, a community organizing tool, the hub of their whole town, all wrapped up into one.
And they’re not some huge paper. It’s a family-owned paper, around since 1891. They’ve got a circulation of 20,000 but, of course, that’s only counting dead trees. With a solid commitment to making media a two-way street, a willingness to experiment, and an understanding that my generation gets our news online, The Lawrence Journal-World may well be around until 2091. The same can’t be said of many other newspapers.
For two years now, I’ve been telling anybody who will listen that Charlottesville media needs to do the same, and that the first paper to do this well wins. If (for example) C-Ville Weekly adopted the Journal-World model, and the Daily Progress stayed as-is, I truly believe that C-Ville would, in five years, be generally known as being superior to the Progress, and their place in the community and ratecard would reflect that.
I started cvillenews.com (and lists.waldo.net and cvilleblogs.com) to push local media outlets into getting on-line. They’ve done so (and surely would have done so without me), and I’m happy about that. But I’ll be much happier the day that cvillenews.com is useless, because Charlottesvillians think of the media as being “us,” not “them,” so accountable do they seem, and the media are so enmeshed with local life and community that any sense of separation is gone. Here’s hoping that cvillenews.com becomes useless sooner, rather than later.