In a world of clickbait, local news makes a major comeback
A few miles outside of Philadelphia and minutes from the outlying suburbs of New York City sits Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The area is a microcosm of America. From farming to a commuter population that boards trains to head into the cities every weekday morning, our area has it all and our sites -- LevittownNow.com and NewtownPANow.com -- cover it all.
From a small office above a coffee shop and dry cleaner in a historic small town, our team of contractors, freelancers and staff produce news about our communities seven day a week. Our small but nimble team attends government meetings, watches recordings of those when a reporter can’t attend, shows up with a camera at community events, talks to our readers, rushes to crime scenes and pours over public records to get the real story.
Our stories sometimes make national and international headlines, but the most important ones hit home for locals, and that’s what matters to us, our advertisers and members of our voluntary membership program.
In the age where local news organizations (newspaper, TV and radio) are being snatched up by national chains that cut staffs and coverage, locally-owned, locally-focused online publications are helping keep communities connected.
While print newspapers are getting a lot of attention thanks to branding campaigns that tout their products and cable news attention on national newspaper exclusives, the work of the country’s several hundred small online publishers are just as important. They attend government meetings, report on the return on deployed soldiers and find out what is going in the empty storefront down the street.
In hearing from fellow online local publishers from around the country, it seems the biggest void isn’t just because newspaper circulation and advertising is shrinking, it’s because local news coverage is shrinking in those publications.
In places near and far, local online publishers are filling the void of shrinking print publications and even filling niche roles that may even complement their local print paper.
At LevittownNow.com and NewtownPANow.com, our reporting has exposed corruption in government, led to the capture of more than 30 criminals, helped find numerous endangered missing persons and raised thousands of dollars for local nonprofits.
Our readers are engaged on social media with a combined 37,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook and thousands more on Twitter and Instagram. They message tips, ask questions, call us and interact with one another in the comment sections on stories posted to Facebook and at events.
One thing we have lost sight of is how our jobs are done. They aren’t done in a bubble. We often speak with our readers, curate their submissions and keep on the pulse of our communities.
Our mission is simple and sums up our goal: provide readers with everything they need to know locally.
One thing we’ve heard from our community is that they’re tired of opening local and regional papers, or flipping on the TV to see stories from outside their community or more opinions than news. Since the election, we have consistently heard from some of our most politically engaged readers that the drone of national politics is drowning out the importance of local elections.
We don’t use wire stories and you won’t be reading about the Battle of Mosul on our homepage or what Ivanka Trump did over the weekend. However, you will be reading about the parents arrested on suspicion of child abuse, the race for state representative, the road paving project a town is undertaking, how the school district is spending your money or the bear sighting one town over. Hey, you’ll likely even see a photo gallery from the local parade.
Our success over nearly five years hasn’t been based on clickbait or development of a pricey app that few readers will use, it has been based on focusing solely on our communities.
Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for seven years for both newspaper and online publications. He is the publisher and editor of LevittownNow.com and NewtownPANow.com.
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