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All News Is Local: How Well Do You Know What's Up in Your Neighborhood? All News Is Local: How Well Do You Know What's Up in Your Neighborhood?

All News Is Local: How Well Do You Know What's Up in Your Neighborhood?

by Chris Rotar
January 10, 2013
Walking the sidelines of a high school football game put things in perspective for me. This was news. Sure, it was “sports news,” but news nonetheless. The game was being played on a field that was practically in my backyard, maybe a quarter mile from the home I grew up in, south of Tampa. I was just 16, and here I was bringing the readers of the high school paper news about who scored touchdowns, who made big runs, ultimately, who won the game.

There was no Internet at the time. It was up to me and the local daily prep sports reporter and, just maybe, a brief segment on the local TV news, to tell the story. Sure, everyone could find out about Joe Montana’s legendary performances on the growing cable TV sports network and in every sports page in the country. But if you wanted to learn how many yards our school’s quarterback passed for, you needed to look to the local media outlets. I was proud to begin my life of reporting and editing local news on that nearby football field.

In some ways, much has changed in the past 20-plus years. News comes at us in a fast-and-furious fashion today. Cable TV, blogs, Twitter—you name it—information is sent our way so quickly that there is little excuse for being uninformed about the “big news” of the day.

NFL playoff seedings? Check. Fiscal cliff update? Check. Golden Globe nominees? Check.

To be sure, the national and global headlines are in front of you in a heartbeat. Those nuggets of news are interesting, informative and, sometimes, helpful. But are you getting the whole story? Do you find yourself wanting news that is, literally, a little closer to home?

If so, that’s a good thing. Being informed about your country and the planet is important, but knowing what is going on in your backyard is crucial to being a productive, valuable member of your community. Indeed, when it comes to being a better citizen, reading the local news is where it’s at.

Think of what you could be missing if you avoid reading the local newspaper.

Maybe:

  • Your community’s city council just voted to allow a new, “questionable” business to set up shop near your child’s school.
  • The local school board decided to lay off dozens of teachers, including the one who finally got your teenager to understand algebra.
  • It was decided that your ballot in the upcoming election will include a question on whether to raise your property tax.
  • The restaurant you frequent down the street is closing after five decades of serving great homestyle meals.
  • A neighbor of yours, the one with the big house and flashy car, is accused in a massive fraud case.
  • A major crime spree has hit the community, and officials are preaching vigilance.
  • Dry conditions have prompted an outdoor-burning ban and you won’t be allowed to have your traditional Fourth of July cookout.

You get the picture. There are always many stories brewing in your community that directly impact your life. And quite often, reading local news coverage, whether in print or on a newspaper’s website, is the only way to learn about those topics. In all but the rarest of occasions, major national media outlets won’t have a report from the city council meeting.

Reading the local news is the first step. What you do afterward—how you use the information—is just as important.

Sometimes a story can spark action by a community’s residents. Say that new “questionable” business mentioned in the earlier example was approved only on first reading by the city council. A news article explains that in two weeks a second reading and final vote are slated, but only after a period of public comment. That’s an opportunity to have your voice heard and possibly change a few minds before a decision is made.

Being an informed citizen is a major step toward being a good citizen.

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