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January 28, 2007



I can't find Jill Caroll's working paper anywhere. Do you know if it got removed?

Rebecca MacKinnon

Hmm... yes it does indeed appear to have been removed! I have a copy but let me check with the Shorenstein people and find out what's up... maybe they needed to make changes?

Josh Chin

"Focus on global stories that have clear and direct relevance to your core home audience, and make the connection much more clear."

I can attest to the value of this, even if only in a small way. I've been a journalist for seven years. When I was just getting started I was offered a job as a "Foreign Expert" (read: glorified copy editor) at a government-run English-language paper in China. It was a chance to go abroad I just couldn't let slip, but foreigners weren't allowed to write for the government press back then, so while there I arranged to write a weekly "Letter from Beijing" for my hometown paper--a little twice-weekly in Utah--in a self-serving bid to keep my brain from atrophying. My only mandate was to occasionally make it relevant to the people back home.

The town was in the mountains, so I wrote a piece on skiing in China. The local high school decided to send students to Beijing on an exchange trip despite widespread fear of international travel (this was just after 9/11), so I wrote about the necessary bravery of the parents willing the let their kids come over. The Healthrider--that oddly carnal and thankfully short-lived exercise machine from the '90s--was invented in Utah, so I penned a column on China's new generation of spandex-clad gym rats contorting themselves on machines of similar vulgarity.

The readers sucked it up (I'm told the edition with my column in it started outselling the one without it). I'm convinced this was not because people in Utah any particular interest in China, and certainly not because of any burning insights I provided (I was 23 at the time). It was because I made the effort to make a local connection. And the times I didn't--those times I wrote about China's treatment of its Muslim minorities, for example--readers stuck with me anyway, I think because somehow a relationship had been formed. They trusted me to tell them what I thought they should know about the place.

Forgive the mundane example, but I think the point is important. Much of the information I provided my readers could have found on the Internet, no doubt. But how many would have bothered?

Thomas Crampton

As a career correspondent, I very much enjoyed both the postings by you and Ethan.

I was struck by your point on "have clear and direct relevance to your core home audience".

In the era of Internet distribution, what is local?

One option is to choose and vary your audience.

The classic line from the local paper's overseas coverage "nobody from Poughkeepsie was injured in the coup d'etat" can be flipped.

Overseas correspondents (a term I prefer to 'foreign') can serve a role of finding local stories of interest to many small audiences.

A local paper might be willing to pay a freelance fee for a story that affected someone from their small town.

Perhaps a correspondent refiles with a lead relating to someone from Wisconsin or France, etc.

The difficult part, of course, is putting it all together in a way that pays the bills.

Ellen Hume

Rebecca, I loved hearing the endorsement of local ethnic media ("glocal") news. YES. We have just launched the volunteer, nonprofit New England Ethnic Newswire (http://go-NEWz.com) which aims to assemble the best of the region's ethnic news coverage each week, in English, with hotlinks to the original stories, photos, etc. We consider ourselves a portal for all kinds of activities such as our community blog on "What is My Identity?" with provocative columns and comments. We are aggregating research, links to services, and other resources for immigrants, ethnic communities and budding journalists, and hoping to reach across all the ethnic divides. As a former MSM reporter, I was amazed at some of the cool stories our small guys produced which were overlooked by MSM--such as the story in the Irish Emigrant that nine years ago it cost $95 to become a US ciitizen, now it's $400, and the Bush Administration is suggesting it be raised to $800. So much is going on in these communities and cultures, if only we can unlock it and engage everyone. When we started working with the ethnic media three years ago we were blown away to find over 100 in Boston and we haven't even tracked everyone down yet. Hope you check it out and participate. Comments, volunteers, support and suggestions are welcome!

--Ellen Hume, Director, Center on Media and Society, UMass Boston

Rebecca MacKinnon

Thanks Josh for that great example of why the global-local connection is so powerful.
Ellen and Thomas, I've just linked to your comments in a new post. Thanks so much for stopping by.


For the past 20+ years or so, almost all of the news about the United States and the rest of the Americas that I view on television and/or listen to on the radio has been delivered by "foreign correspondents". Not that all of these correspondents were based in the Washington D.C. or New York news bureaus of large European media networks, but that the people who delivered the news about my home country were themselves "foreigners". Even the CNN news that I have followed religiously over that same period of time is delivered to my office and home by an international team of highly skilled journalists and production staff. It's called CNN International. When the dominant CNN mothership (CNN-USA) cuts into the CNNI programming with a(nother) "breaking news story" with all of those strange faces and people that I neither know nor trust, I'm ready to throw my shoe at the TV in anger.

Today many of us can get news about the world and news about our own hometown from all over the world via 100's of great and reliable news sources delivered to a variety of devices that connect to the Internet. Heck, I don't even need video cables and antennaes and a power cord in order to get news anymore. Look Ma, no hands (wireless)!

More than 30+ years ago when I and other idealistic college undergrads entertained a career in journalism, broadcasting, and other related fields we felt that the we were on the verge of a technological revolution in how news and other programming would be delivered to people worldwide. Back then the revolution had to do with the miniaturization and mobility of equipment (heavy and expensive TV studio gear vs. lightweight, inexpensive Sony porta-pak video units) AND it had to do with a radical change in how the news was gathered, organized into reports & delivered. We beleived that the distribution of this new form of news and entertainment would be delivered to people's homes worldwide via satellites and received via small satellite signal receivers. The Web and the Internet were not even on our radar back then so we were only about 1/2 right.

Therefore I am shocked to learn that today, 30+ freakin years later, veteran journalists, editors and publishers, and other news media professionals feel threatened & confused by the changes taking place in the industry as a result of the Web. It is even more surprising that they feel threatened by the people who are contributing content to the Web and interacting with one another in ways that the media companies themselves maintained strict control over for generations.

What we see happening today with such a phenomenal growth rate and so much dedication has been decades in the making. Where, where were YOU (the journalists, the editors, and the news execs) when the floodgates of technological change finally burst open? Don't blame yourselves (the journalists), blame the ones in the suits (the network bosses, marketing & advertising execs, and other fatcats who live from your hard work). They are the ones who were not guarding the gates when "The Mob" showed up.

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