Sunday’s Courier-Journal, Louisville’s daily newspaper, is one of the few tactile media publications I still read. I get the paper every day delivered in my RSS feeds, but Sunday mornings with local newspapers are still useful, if for the experience alone. My wife enjoys perusing the coupons. I like reading feature stories and the agate page of the sports section to see items from out-of-market or small college teams the paper never covers.
Sunday, I ran across an interesting article about Fred Greenhalgh’s podcasts at Finalrune.com. The piece was a nice explanation of how Greenhalgh is sort of bringing back the radio drama through his podcasts. The article was a nice read and of decent length and gave me a few moments to revisit my days in radio, but also appreciate the modern medium of Internet podcasts and what can be done with them.
But then I realized something very, very sad.
The article, found in the Sunday Forum section of the Courier-Journal, was written by Barry Newman. Of the Wall Street Journal. Fred Greenhalgh lives in Portland, Maine. Not a shred of this article had anything to do with Louisville, Kentucky or the surrounding area. On the surface, that might seem like a nonsense criticism of the Courier-Journal’s lack of local focus and wire copy back-falling. I did enjoy the article, after all. But when you consider the similar story of J.C. Hutchins, you see my point.
J.C. Hutchins couldn’t get 7th Son published. The Louisville native had created a masterful first attempt at a book, but publishers were frigid on it. Not one to give up on a dream, Hutchins turned the unpublished work into a published one using the Internet. The 7th Son podcasts grew virally until legions of Clone Army insiders were downloading, blogging, taking pictures in Clone Army shirts and more. The imagination of Hutchins’s futuristic, sci-fi story captured that of thousands.
So much so that a publisher finally realized the mistake and published 7th Son.
A Louisville native, product of Atherton High School, Western Kentucky University graduate, using podcasting, creating audio experiences that not only capture imaginations like radio dramas, but lead to overcoming publishing world obstacles and turning his book dream into reality … that’s the story the Courier-Journal needs to tell. Sadly, it hasn’t. Searching the C-J finds no mention of J.C. Hutchins anywhere. Other local newspapers don’t fare much better.
While there’s nothing wrong with the Courier-Journal telling both stories, and one example does not an industry fault make, the facts of the matter are this: The Wall Street Journal charges for its online content because it is original and serves its audience supremely. The Courier-Journal and similar local newspapers could never get away with monetizing their content because they’re so busy finding wire copy (ironically from the Wall Street Journal) to fill a spot in their Sunday Forum that they don’t even notice stories that their audiences would really care about.
While local newspapers aren’t exactly facing competition from primary new media sources (yet), they must get rid of the notion that they are to supply the entire world’s news and notes to their readers. Or at least realize that if their content isn’t locally relevant and of service to its geographic footprint, it is less relevant than other mediums that are. We will pay for good content. We won’t pay for our local newspaper’s online version. And yes, those two concepts are very much connected.