Top Line Book Corner: Author Judy Muller on Success of Hyperlocal Journalism

Jun 30, 2011 5:09pm

ABC News’ Sherisse Pham (@sherisse) reports: Mainstream newspapers and big networks have decimated their bureaus, veteran journalists have been let go, and young reporters work part-time jobs to support their journalism habits. The industry, to put it mildly, is going through a rough patch.

But there is light in these dark and troubled times, says Judy Muller, Emmy-award winning journalist and author of the new book, “Emus Loose in Egnar.”

"As long as there are refrigerator magnets and scrapbooks, there will be local weekly newspapers,” said Muller on ABC’s Top Line today, “because you've got to cut out that picture of your son the quarterback and put it on the fridge.”

Local community newspapers have a golden combination: an audience that cannot get their news anywhere else, and advertisers that cannot advertise anywhere else, said Muller. Unlike the mainstream newspapers, many have websites that charge viewers for stories.

“Local community newspapers – and there are about 8 thousand of them, these weeklies all across America – are thriving. And they’re thriving because of hyperlocalism, which is a new buzzword in the mainstream media, but they've been doing it for decades,” said Muller.

Muller’s book takes readers to small town America, often to areas with less than five thousand people. Residents of these intimate communities, Muller said, place a high value on trust, and for good reason.

“You know, it’s uncomfortable to live next to the people you're reporting on,” said Muller. “You have to be fair, you have to be truthful and you lose friends over the years.”

Reporters that are simply dropped into such places by big news outlets, or even by smaller, neighborhood news sites like the AOL start-up, do not have that established presence.

The patchwork quilt of American journalism, said Muller, is made up of small town stories, reported by brave and enterprising local journalists.

“These editors stand up to bullies in Kentucky, they've stood up to the coal companies, they've had their newspaper offices burned down, they've had bullets shot through the window — these are courageous people.”

Courageous enough, even, to run stories on emus loose in Egnar.


You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus