Friday, April 10, 2009

Complaints and questions

C: Let's have more coverage from the Fredericktown area! - E.C.

A: This comment was written on the survey that readers fill out when they resubscribe for home delivery. We receive comments just like this one all the time from small communities all over our coverage area, which encompasses Washington and Greene counties. With 89 municipalities in that area, it is impossible for a small staff of reporters to cover everything that might be going on. Fredericktown is a 45-minute drive from our main office in Washington, and it's not on the way to anywhere, so it is often overlooked. Not a great deal happens there that is of interest to the rest of the circulation area, but it's not as if nothing happens in Fredericktown. We could do more.

We did do more, years ago, when the newspaper had "country correspondents" who mailed in columns with information about who was in the hospital and who was visiting from out of town. They were called upon to cover breaking news when that occurred, too. The correspondents disappeared, for a number of reasons: That sort of social news fell out of fashion; people became more reluctant to have their private business publicized; the number of people willing to be correspondents for little or no money dwindled.

But the Internet is changing things. Newspapers are struggling to hold on to subscribers and to serve new readers with online editions. Newspapers are beginning to realize that their future is in being "hyper local," and they are now recruiting "citizen journalists," to serve areas their own reporting staffs cannot. The Internet has made gathering and disseminating community news much easier, and more people are willing to spend time doing this.

It's more than likely that the enormous changes newspapers are going through will benefit small communities like Fredericktown, and that's a good thing.

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