The future of news reporting in Richmond

Yesterday it seems the Palladium-Item newspaper laid off four more of its news department staff, leaving only a small handful of people to report firsthand on what’s happening in the area.

At a personal level, we should send words of care and support to those who have just lost their jobs. Going through a professional transition of any kind can be hard and stressful, and doing so involuntarily with little notice can be gut-wrenching. We should appreciate the time and energy that these folks (and all of the paper’s former staff) have given to bring light, texture and understanding to the stories and news of our community, and hope that they are able to land on their feet with new opportunities ahead. We should also think of the staff who are left behind, almost certainly expected to do more with less.

Sometimes layoffs happen because an organization needs to restructure in order to grow or meet longer term goals. In this case it seems the paper’s trajectory for some time has been toward shrinking its local staff in favor of content assembled, edited and published from elsewhere. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of a rebirth or resurgence in its future, though the advertising dollars and current subscription revenue can probably sustain a meager existence for some time. But we should probably expect the staff reductions to continue until the paper is either sold, closed altogether or significantly changes in format (e.g. becoming a weekly, becoming a section of the Indianapolis Star). My understanding is that when we hear the news that the Pal-Item has been donated to the Gannett Foundation, the company’s charitable giving arm, we will know that a sale or closure is imminent.

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Where do you get your news?

Where do people living in Richmond get their news and information about the community?

What sources do they use to understand what’s happening here, and form ideas and opinions about those happenings? Who do they trust to tell them what’s true and real, and what’s just rumor, gossip or marketing?

I think these questions are interesting because they get to the heart of how the people of Richmond make decisions about our future. Whether it’s deciding which candidates to elect, what community improvement projects to support, what public spaces are desirable to be in, which businesses to patronize or what injustices need addressing, we all make decisions that affect what’s possible here. These decisions are based on the information we have, the news we follow, the opinions we form over time.

It’s tempting to think that many people in Richmond don’t get news from anywhere. With low turnout in elections and other forms of civic engagement, high unemployment, below average levels of adult literacy and education, we can convince ourselves that people here just don’t read, don’t get informed, don’t care. But I think we all get news and information from somewhere. Human curiosity is a powerful thing, and most everyone wants to know something about their environs and what’s happening in the world around them.

Here’s my understanding of how we’re satisfying that curiosity in Richmond.

Continue reading Where do you get your news?