In prepping for a class in which I will discussing the art of the issue story, I searched local New York City news media looking for good local issue stories. I found several, but in years passed I would’ve found so much more.
I understand why it’s happening, why the news media is more concerned with breaking news stories (more page views, even though they don’t know how to monetize those page views). I understand about getting caught up in the story of the day. I know some newsrooms have lost a quarter or half of the staff they had a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon covering real people.
It irks me that a city as populous and powerful as New York City doesn’t have more reporters covering the issues of its people. I’m not talking about top-down stories that spring out of battles in the courts or City Hall. I’m talking about bottom-up stories that reporters cull from interviewing everyday New Yorkers about the issues affecting their lives.
Local news is key to creating an informed citizenry. You may not be able to get your average reader to sit down and read a 7,000-word New Yorker piece on the insurgency movement in Iran, but you can get them interested in a 700-word story on the elderly women in their neighborhood being harassed by their landlords.
There’s great reporting from a handful of reporters at the Daily News, the New York Times, WNYC, and several other city newsrooms, but it’s not enough. It’ll be enough when they have dedicated reporters covering the issues in all communities — not just those who are preppy or well-heeled.
Even newly sprung websites (I won’t name names) that are supposed to focus on New York City neighborhoods, are falling down on the job. They sticking to police blotter items and press release-driven stories that ignore real issues affecting real people. I can only hope that because they are fledgling news organizations this is temporary; as they grow, they’ll add seasoned reporters to their staffs, pay them a decent salary, and allow them to shine a light on the city’s issues.
That would be grand.