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The Importance of Online Coverage of Hyperlocal News

In 2008, journalist Mark Bunster started a debate by claiming that he, a blogger, could sit in on executive sessions. “As the author of political blog Loaded Orygun, Bunster insisted at a Lake Oswego City Council meeting that he was a member of the news media and therefore, under Oregon statute, allowed to sit in on executive session meetings,” wrote Oregon Live. This led politicians and readers across the country to wonder what constituted a member of the news media. Blogs were up and running in 2008, but still pretty new; The Huffington Post, for example, only started in May 2005. The article closes with a quote from University of Oregon professor Kyo Ho Youm: “Sometimes, bloggers are now able to provide some wonderful sources of information in addition to what the public may find in the traditional news media. I think the information gatherers should not be limited to the traditional media.”

Seven years later, with the persistent growth of online news media, I wondered about another type of outlet that blurs the lines between blogs and “traditional” papers: online-only news publications. Mark Bunster wasn’t the only one who could have covered that executive session, but in many small towns like my own, no one else would cover local government except an online-only reporter.

I’ve written about my one hometown publication, The North Salem Daily Voice, before. “The Daily Voice, a local online news outlet covering towns throughout Fairfield County in Connecticut and Westchester County in New York.” My town, with a population of less than 5,000, was seldom covered in the mainstream news media (where I’m from, that would be The Journal News, which covers far more populous parts of the Hudson Valley) before The Daily Voice began in 2010 as a collection of local news sites.

Bea Kruchkow is the vice president of the Friends of the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library, one of the most active community organizations in North Salem. The Friends often reach out to The Daily Voice when advertising their events. Kruchnow depends on it for news as welll. “Both my husband and I read the Daily daily and as often as they post updates during the day when we can,” Kruchkow said. “We think that getting local and not so local news this way is a very valid form of journalism.”

For other news, however, she depends on the Internet: “I do find that not so local news shows up much more quickly on [Facebook] though,” she said; that is, there are alternative outlets when she wants to learn what’s going on beyond her community. She said that she follows local news on TV on channel 12 as well.

In tiny towns like North Salem, if the few North Salem Daily Voice reporters aren’t covering what’s going on, no one else is. The Journal News might be covering our school’s sports or yearly musical, but who would cover our gas prices? Our Easter egg hunt? Our school board elections? The (now dismal) saga of our missing wallaby? (This wallaby is something I’ll definitely write more about in the future.)

The Ruth Keeler Memorial Library, North Salem’s public library.

All in all, when considering who’s in the “real” news media, think about the places, people and issues she’s covering. If no one else is in that space, that person has every right to go there and inform the public.

*Disclaimer: I have been both an employee of the library and the student liaison to the Friends of the Libary.

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