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Life After Newspapers

My new cover story on the fate of local news amidst the newspaper’s demise landed just as the Boston Globe’s owner moved towards shutting down the paper, and NY Times media critic David Carr wonders about the stories that won’t get covered without packs of savvy newspaper reporters getting paid to do what they do.

Can TV stations fill the role that newspapers play in the community? They can certainly grab some of the revenue that was going to papers. But what about that watchdog role–shining a light on the cheating politician, telling the story of the forgotten underclass, letting people know that, say, a giant real estate crisis is about to hit.

I spoke to a dozen or so station managers for the feature and the large majority said they were already doing a solid job of covering local news in-depth, which sounds like they won’t be stepping up their investigative work with the local newspaper cutting back or going under.

KTVU’s Tim McVay, for one, said there are five English-speaking news stations in the Bay Area, along with Asian and Hispanic channels, and major papers in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. He acknowledged that there would be stories going untold should the Chronicle fold (it has been rumored), but feels like the greater market is well covered.

“I think there’s still a good bit of folks keeping an eye on the processes and people that the media is charged with keeping an eye on,” he said. “We take a lot of pride and responsibility and run our news department in a way that keeps the community informed. Certainly there would be a big void [without the Chronicle], but there’s an awful lot of top-flight journalists in the Bay Area.”

The B&C cover story, “Stations Search For Gold in a Post-Newspaper Landscape,” can be found here.