Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Going Local, Not AWOL

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Going Local, Not AWOL

Article excerpt

In nearly every scene of the hit comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, moviegoers are invited to laugh at someone who exhibits bottomless ignorance about history and current events, combined with breathtaking cultural cluelessness.

That someone, of course, is inevitably an American.

Taken in completely by Sacha Baron Cohen's bumbling Kazakh journalist character, a procession of natives of this land of the free and home of the brave affably share their crabbed worldviews and unexamined prejudices.

And yet an increasing number of influential newspaper industry thinkers apparently believe this is a nation that needs less international news.

Newspapers are transfixed by the notion that their many and varied problems will surely fade away if their printed and digital pages fill up with content that is "local, local, local" -- always repeated three times, as if it were a Rosicrucian invocation.

There's a real logic behind this latest industry fad, of course. Newspapers beyond all doubt own the local news franchise, and no other medium can easily take it away. It is an invaluable strategic advantage.

But, as usual, newspapers desperate for The Answer to their woes are in danger of taking the local-news imperative too far. Reporting of international events is jettisoned to make room for Wednesday's lunch menu at Grover Cleveland Junior High. David Geffen, the entertainment billionaire who along with the supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle thinks it would be really cool to own the Los Angeles Times, intends, as the online media site The First Post put it, "to dump the international pretensions of the newspaper and focus on L. …

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