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Burriss On the Media: Local Reporters


By Larry Burriss, PhD


Murfreesboro, TN – The last few years have seen an explosion in so-called "I-reporters," amateurs playing at being news reporters, and using their cell phone cameras to supposedly bring us the news.
Well, take a close look at those so-called reports: there are lots of photographs of tornado damage, flood destruction and car crashes. But precious little actual reporting. And by reporting I mean stories about local politics, local business, and local education.
What we have also seen over many years is the destruction of news operations by a group I call "bean counters": accountants whose sole purpose is to look at the newspaper, radio and television bottom line, at the expense of local news coverage. And what we are told is that news outlets can rely on citizens to provide news.
But a recent report sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission has demonstrated that as national news coverage by Internet outlets has increased, state and local news coverage has taken a dangerous downward spiral.
So if you really want to be a citizen journalist, and in the process make a difference, here are a few things you can do.
First, learn how to read a state and local budget. What do all of those numbers mean, where do they come from, and who do they benefit? That kind of information is invaluable, especially at the local level.
Second, learn how the contracting process works for your community. Who is selling what to the city, and what are the connections between buyers and sellers?
"But wait," you probably saying, "that's what reporters are supposed to do."
And you are absolutely right: reporters, real reporters that is, are trained to dig out facts and figures, then prepare intelligible stories about those facts and figures.
It's been said that all politics is local. So if you are a pretend reporter, fine. But if you want to make a difference, then learn what real reporters do, and then get to work making a difference.
I'm Larry Burriss.