The danger of lame local news

Everyone who has trumpeted hyperlocal news as the future of newspapers should read this hilariously merciless Bill Wyman post at Hitsville.

Wyman, who notes that he gets three newspapers a day, gives a brutal assessment of one edition of the Arizona Republic’s “Arizona Living” section — which includes such interesting stories as “Free burrito for teachers, ” “Post office food drive,” and “Fight Crohn’s and colitis” as well as

a short filler AP item (“Jump-start day sweetly, swiftly”) about how the Tootsie Roll company has a new product: “Maxxed Energy Pops, a cleverly packed energy drink in the form of a lollipop.” It’s almost hard to believe that life forms above the level of a somewhat dense tree sloth took part in the selection, editing, hed-writing and publishing of that piece of prose.

Yowza. I’m always wary of hyperlocal pushes because of the danger that papers will end up with lots of lame community-newsletter fluff like this. Of course there are ways to do hyperlocal that don’t result in stories-as-boring-calendar-items; Wyman himself suggests a much better approach to one of the Arizona Living stories. So let his post be a warning to journalists everywhere, hyperlocal or otherwise. Please, please, don’t end up like this:

It’s clear that everyone involved long ago had any bit of originality or innovation beaten out of them. They know that they can’t go wrong producing and designing the page to appeal to some imaginary doddering grandmother, so they scour the day’s press releases and then sit around and brainstorm to zero in on the bloodless, the trivial, and the utterly mundane.

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