But Who Will Cover City Council Meetings?

from the if-there's-demand dept

One of the points we've tried to make over and over again is that if there's a demand for reporting on something, models will get created to cover it. This doesn't mean that participatory journalism will flat-out replace the legacy media. Instead, we believe that the two will just blend together, with roles for the pros alongside everyone else. But, one of the key points made by folks who insist that newspapers are the last bastion between the world and widespread corruption is the question: "but who would cover city council meetings if newspapers don't send reporters?" The idea is that no one really cares enough to cover such things. Except, that's not necessarily true. As Jay Rosen notes, it appears that when concerned citizens are interested in what's happening in their local governments, they appear to do an amazingly thorough job covering city council meetings -- perhaps much more thoroughly than the bored reporter using the gig as a stepping stone to a more exciting beat.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 1:40am

    Rebooting the News

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 1:59am

    When does reporting cross the the line to being obsessive / compulsive?

    Citizen reporters in theory are good, but in reality they can be selective in what they report.

     

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  3.  
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    insub2, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 1:59am

    There is a citizen journalism group starting up in my town (Grand Rapids, MI) and city council meetings is definitely something that will be covered.

    If anyone is interested, http://twitter.com/TheRapidian/

     

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  4.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Jul 15th, 2009 @ 2:07am

    Re:

    "Citizen reporters in theory are good, but in reality they can be selective in what they report."
    Yeah and professional reporters are not selective in what they report

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 3:17am

    Re:

    more to the point, its not just professional reporters, but newspapers themselves that are extremely selective in what they publish.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 3:25am

    Re: Re:

    Most professional reports know how to report without showing incredible bias. Citizen reporters are much more likely to go all NIMBY on certain issues, and ignore other issues that don't concern them personally. After all, there are no journalistic standards for blog writers, no city editor, no second eyeball on the call.

     

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  7.  
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    Bob Vila, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re:

    The word professional needed some quotation marks.

     

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  8.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jul 15th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Agreed. In our small town (~45k) the only people who attend city council meetings tend to be the nutjobs with extreme agendas. They put up extremely one sided blogs demonizing the opposition. It is a good thing the local paper is there to at least print a more level headed article.

    Plus, Mike, when you complain about the death of newspapers you say they should focus on local news since anyone can get national/world news easily and abundantly on the internet. A city council meeting would be the best place for a news reporter to be to report on what is going on in the community since you probably won't find that info on the NY Times website.

     

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  9.  
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    Mechwarrior, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I found this statement amusing, as oftentimes you can see the bias that many newspapers (professional news organizations in general). Just look at some of the Time magazine articles, some NY Times articles, hell its even worse with local papers. Even government backed news organizations like BBC have shown some bias.

    In my experience, bloggers and "professionals" usually have equivalent levels of bias.

     

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  10.  
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    fogbugzd, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    Local beat reporters

    I worked in city government for years. Most of the time the news coverage by the local TV stations and newspaper was laughable. This was in cities with ~100,000 populations.

    Almost all of the reporters were inexperienced and did not even notice glaring inconsistencies in press releases (which were their lifeblood). If they had a question they called the head of the department who would of course give them the official storyline.

    After meetings that were covered by the local newspapers it was always entertaining to read the articles about the meeting. The points that they covered were usually the sensational rather than what was really important.

     

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  11.  
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    chris (profile), Jul 15th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A city council meeting would be the best place for a news reporter to be to report on what is going on in the community since you probably won't find that info on the NY Times website.

    so why can't the guy that used to cover the city hall beat for the smalltown star keep doing it on his or her blog?

    and instead of just covering the beat, why not go further in depth as well?

    if there are so many crazies that attend these meetings to advance their insane agendas, surely covering them should even provide a human interest/humor section to the blog to attract those disaffected types who use the internet to hate everything.

     

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  12.  
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    D.A., Jul 15th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Re: Selective?

    Good point... because reporters are NEVER selective in what they report or how they report it...?

     

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  13.  
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    Nutjob, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes... but to show the other side, another nutjob can put up the other argument... which... is happens just as often in trade rags, etc.

    No different than this blog. We know Mike's angle - or we soon discover it. If we don't agree with it, we find another perspective.

    But look at the reports and news stories he points to where the reporter is parroting the RIAA. Is THAT factual? Where's the other side?

    Everyone has an agenda. Some are just better at disguising it.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "But look at the reports and news stories he points to where the reporter is parroting the RIAA. Is THAT factual? Where's the other side?"

    That's most often because the other side isn't an organized anything, but rather a blob of quasi-legal and mostly illegal actors who don't want to come to the front. They certainly don't send out talking points memos, and they certainly don't make themselves widely available to reports.

    heck, look at the clusterf--k of a job that the guys from TPB did in their court case. They didn't make themselves available to the media in any way that the media could easily handle, so their message was lost.

    Don't blame the reporters for using the information they have, they can't get blood from a stone, and they can't interview ghosts and goblins.

     

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  15.  
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    vibinc, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    WOW

    I'm completely flabbergasted that one of my Memphis City Council posts got picked up as an example of an "amazingly thorough job covering City Council meetings".

    Thanks so much for the recognition. I really appreciate it!

     

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  16.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jul 15th, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    so why can't the guy that used to cover the city hall beat for the smalltown star keep doing it on his or her blog?

    Maybe they would like to keep their paycheck from the local rag? Plus, to maintain their job they will probably try to be more objective when reporting to keep the newspaper management happy. Sure they are free to go off in their own time and have a blog. But trying to make it profitable may be a little challenging for some of the smaller communities.

     

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  17.  
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    Andrew D. Todd, Jul 15th, 2009 @ 6:26pm

    Sunshine Laws.

    The answer is that you have "sunshine laws." At present, these laws say, inter alia, that if the mayor invites the council members and the city clerk over to his house, and they gather around the bar in his basement recreation room, and the mayor opens a bottle of Hungarian plum brandy, with a kick like a mule, and the council members start talking business... well, the sunshine law says, first that this, um, gathering is not a lawful council meeting, and any acts taken at it are null and void, and that the meeting itself may be illegal per se. Very well, a sunshine law for the internet would say that a lawful council meeting has to be webcast, or it is null, void, and probably illegal per se.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 5:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Citizen reporters are much more likely"

    Some maybe but some won't. And for every citizen that has a bias in one direction there is a citizen that has a bias in another direction and will report the news in that opposite direction just as well. As a result we get a larger perspective of views and we get to SEE all the different views and arguments instead of having a "professional" trying to be moderate censor those views in an attempt to be "moderate." and some citizens will be moderate so we can follow them as well.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 5:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "to keep the newspaper management happy."

    This isn't about keeping newspaper management happy (as if newspaper management isn't bias) it's about keeping citizens happy.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Maybe they would like to keep their paycheck from the local rag?"

    So you want to adopt a business model to force people to pay for something they may not want to pay for (ie: via government intervention) just to get some news? If he can provide something of value worth paying for people will pay. But lets not force people to pay him through government intervention and the censoring of blogs and such.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "the only people who attend city council meetings tend to be the nutjobs with extreme agendas."

    First of all who are YOU to decide what constitutes a nutjob? Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a nutjob. Allow the citizens to make that decision.

    "to maintain their job they will probably try to be more objective when reporting to keep the newspaper management happy."

    and who are they, or their bosses, to decide what constitutes "objective" reporting. Again, lets allow the citizens to decide this.

     

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