Recently, I realized something scary. Our community has no reporters. Barely any professional local news. Almost nothing.
Yes, I know you what are going to tell me: Heather, you don't know that? Everyone knows that we have that we have no reporters. This is nothing new. Our community has been posting our own news on CudahyNow for a long time. This is something that we should be used to by now. This is a part of an unfortunate but emerging trend in local news. Our community members have to write our own articles. Or if we want, we can pay, sometimes through tax payer dollars, for public relations people to take care of this task. Yes, I do know all of this.
However, during a time when news all-around is so important, our lack of local news recently hit home for me.
I recently noticed our lack of local election coverage. This made me nervous. Fearing that our community would not even know the names of the candidates running for school board, I rushed to submit this information during my own time and of course, free of charge. With the help of a friend, we managed to get something out there.
Yes, I find this scary.
Cudahy deserves the best school board possible. But how can we make an intelligent vote when we barely know anything about our candidates? And why should our communities have to depend on the busy lives of volunteer user-submissions to get news that is - in this day of time - so important?
This may seem crazy coming from a blogger, but user-submitted news should never be the center of a community web site. User-submitted news (volunteer bloggers, YourStories, Photos) should be an additional voice to existing content. Our content should be what you read after you read real local news. However, at this time (outside of Facebook pages, e-newsletters, and outside blogs) we are pretty much our community's only news.
A couple of years ago, the Journal/Sentinel laid off our local journalist and our photographer. Of course I felt, along with many other people, that this was a terrible decision and a sad time for our community. Our community photographer was gone. Our reporter and professional news stories were gone. And a part of our community connection was gone. This decision to lay off our reporters was made with the intention to save money and to officially place the community news in the hands of us.
Why was this decision made?
I'm looking at other community Now web sites outsite of the South Shore communities (South Shore meaning - Cudahy, South Milwaukee, St. Francis, or Bay View). How come the emerging trend of user-submitted news aftects some cities a lot more than others?
Are we different than other communities? Less important? Less newsworthy? Coming from a Cudahy resident who really enjoys local news, why do we have to depend solely on user submissions and bloggers when other cities are not as affected?
I look at the CNI Staff page. No where do I see the South Shore cities. We don't exist. I see a Wauwatosa reporter and a Wauwatosa and Elmbrook schools reporter. I see a Brookfield reporter. I see a North Shore reporter. I see a a Muskego-New Berlin reporter. I see a a Germantown-Menomonee Falls reporter. I see an Elm Grove reporter. I also see community specific editors. I see a Wauwatosa and Brookfield-Elm Grove Editor. I see a Muskego/New Berlin editor. I see Greenfield-West Allis editor. And I see and an Oak Creek/Franklin/Hales Corners/Greendale editor. Again, there is no one on staff, a journalist or an editor, solely responsible for this area - my community.
It's communities like ours, the South Shore communities, who are currently being hurt the most -- communities who have essentially been dropped from the Journal/Sentinel radar (with of course, the exception of big news like the Patrick Cudahy Fire) to fend for ourselves and forced to either write or own local news or have no news at all.
Am I saying that I don't like CudahyNow? Of course I'm not. I do indeed enjoy that our city has a voice. And I especially like that I have this blog and my own voice. We need this. CudahyNow has given our community a sounding board - a way to express ourselves. This is something that we did not have in the past and something most people do enjoy. However, CudahyNow as a true source of news - as it was intended a few years ago - is not the same. Like I said, user-submitted news will never replace real news.
I'm paraphrashing a quote I know - True Knowledge is to know the extent of our own ignorance.
To read community web sites or newspapers based solely on user-submitted news, we must also be aware of everything that these (volunteer) users do not submit (probably do not have time to submit). As we read our community web sites, we should also pay attention to other community web sites. As we talk about this trend of communities having to provide their own local news, we need to pay attention to the other communities who do not have to do this as much. Simply, we need to think about the issues and news we don't know about - but should (for example, election coverage). If we don't ask questions like this, then we don't know the extent of our own ignorance.
Yes, not getting enough local news is scary.
Strictly looking at elections coverage, below are examples of other cities - put together by professional CNI staff. I could have posted more examples, but got tired.
Keep in mind that the South Shore communities received no election candidate coverage.
Brookfield does not have an election guide - does have articles written about their elections.