One of the times I'm most likely to end up vouching for the importance and sustainability of local news is when I'm in an Uber.You might know the typical conversation starter. What are you in town …
One of the times I'm most likely to end up vouching for the importance and sustainability of local news is when I'm in an Uber.
You might know the typical conversation starter. What are you in town for? This weekend, I was in Little Rock, Arkansas, for a wedding. Where are you visiting from? Gulf Shores. Oh, what brought you there? Work. What do you do for work? ... You work for a newspaper? I didn't know people still did that.
Then the conversation goes one of two ways. Sometimes, it's a nice and supportive discussion where the driver finds it interesting that we are trying to make local newspapers sustainable and innovative in an increasingly digital world. How we still value the printed newspaper while at the same time knowing not everyone will pick one up. But that even those people want and need reliable, accurate and fair local information.
Often, the response is some variation of "Media is so biased now, and why should I pay for it if I can get it somewhere else for free?" But that assumption about bias is always - and I mean always - referring to national news that deals with national politics. When we explain that local news is different than 24/7 cable networks and that we don't get paid to promote false narratives (yes, we are asked that a lot), they often still go back to thinking they can just find it "somewhere else for free." Where do you find local information, we ask. (I say we because Micah is usually better at holding Uber conversations like this without wanting to trail off. Sometimes I just want to be in a quiet Uber.) This weekend's answer was Reddit.
After a couple more questions asking what kind of local information he finds on Reddit, he said, "Well, not local. More on national politics and stuff. But I can't trust the media."
We know there is a pretty wide assumption in this country about media bias and a lack of trust in big outlets. But it's so important to differentiate between what many people think of "media" and what local newspapers are. Local newspapers provide the most accurate, reliable information you can get about your community. Even local TV stations get up to a quarter of their stories from the paper.
The most amazing thing about these conversations is the entitlement that news should be free. It's never been free. This weekend's guy said something about how there "are no more Walter Cronkites." How would he know, if he doesn't consume the news? There are so many great journalists all over the country, and you know what else they are? Employees. They need paychecks. Cronkite did, too. And people paid for cable TV packages so they could watch him.
I've found one of the most effective ways to combat the assumptions that come out in conversations like the one Micah and I had twice this weekend, assumptions based in misinformation, is by actions over words.
You're more informed, you're a better citizen, because you read your local news. We prioritize looking into stories you won't find anywhere else.
Reporting that makes you better. So not necessarily every single arrest report or bad vacation guest rumor posted on Facebook. We tell you what your local elected officials are doing, what's happening with high school sports, what events you can bring the family to this weekend. Who's helping the county adapt to its exponential growth and who's opening a new restaurant. Who's making a comeback and who needs help.
This holiday season, give that gift of knowledge to a family member, friend or other loved one. Help support the continuation of local news. If you're reading this and you're not a subscriber, gift yourself something you can use every day rather than a thing that'll end up in a landfill. Thank you for supporting Gulf Coast Media. We truly wouldn't — and wouldn't want to — be here without you.
Using the promo code "gift" at checkout, go to www.GulfCoastMedia.com/Subscribe to get 50% off a subscription you can gift or get for yourself. This deal expires Dec. 31.
— Kayla Green is the executive editor of Gulf Coast Media.