I would love to write for national level magazines, and I would love to write novels, but as far as newspapers go, community journalism is where it's at.
[By the way, when I say "I would love to write novels," I mean that I would love to write published novels that I could casually stumble upon in national bookstore chains. I get tingly just thinking about it!]
In any case, I had a really interesting conversation with a friend the other day on the merits of community journalism. He told me a story of a writer from a small town paper, who always made sure to focus his stories on the people of the town. Apparently their readership increased to 130% every time he was published. I'm not exactly sure how that clearly inaccurate figure was created , but the point is, every time this man was published, everyone in the town picked up a copy of the paper, if not multiple copies of the paper.
Everyone likes to see their name in the paper. With the exception of the police notes and the obituaries, it is generally a sign of good things. Knowing this, the man would include as many local names as possible in each story that he wrote. In fact, in one interview, the man stated that if he could simply publish the phone book, he would be golden.
I love calling local people and telling them that our newspaper would like to feature both them and the work they are doing. 99% of the time, they are extremely excited with the news. Positive feedback is always a good thing, and to be recognized for your work, especially in this economy, creates a good feeling glow.
On the other side of things are those that pick up the paper to see MY name. Several of my regular customers at that little country store buy the paper solely when I am published, as a pledge of support to me and my work. And like the positive feedback above, this also creates a good feeling glow, regardless of the fact that some do it simply to be nice, and never actually read the articles.
Sure it would be a huge accomplishment to be published in... say... the New York Times. But for me, there is just as much satisfaction in convincing a tired landscaper to bring home a newspaper with his six-pack because he liked the way I made his breakfast sandwich earlier that same day and hey! Check it out! I'm on the front page this week, Bub!
So... I agree with the journalist my friend told me about. Names are key.
But I think the bigger theme is that community journalism is community supported. And as a girl who oh-so-loves that good feeling glow, this level of newspapers is where I'd like to stay.