In community journalism you often have one boss to answer to, and in most companies I was with that boss interfered very little with my work. It was the job of the boss to worry about money and logistics and my job to get the news and make the paper rock. On the other hand, I was in a bigger news group for a few years with layers of managers managing other managers and all answering up the ladder and all needing to be kept happy.
More responsibilitiesSome may put this on the con side, but I enjoy small market papers because they give me freedom to do more and cover what is needed rather than only what I am assigned. It also gives me the opportunity to expand my skills in multiple areas because one needs to multitask in a smaller staff. I once met a young journalist from the Fort Worth Star Telegram who said his job was to write photo cutlines and that was it. I would feel like a hamster on a wheel after a month of that. Things changed drastically after the recession beginning in 2008 and large market papers now require their employees (what few are left) to multi-task to some extent.
Big fishIn major market, seldom is what you are covering of interest to a majority of your audience, and if it is that big of a story the reader can just get it from another source. However, in community journalism you are the big fish in the small pond and everything you do is relevant because you cover local news, school events, local sports and human interest stories close and personal to your readers.
ConsBeing treated inferior by outsiders
On a few occasions when big breaking news happened on my turf I struggled with outside authorities and law enforcement officers who didn’t know or respect me.
There was an incident in a new housing development where a backhoe operator burst a major underground fuel line. I rushed to the location only to find an unfamiliar law officer blocking traffic about three-quarters of a mile from the scene. I showed him my press pass, pleaded with him, brown nosed him and even showed him my bigass camera but he would not let me through. Even after we saw multiple news helicopters landing in the distance at the scene he would not let me pass. Finally, he called on his radio, “Yeah. I have this guy here from….Who did you say you are with?” and I was allowed to rush to the scene and an outdoor news conference already in progress.
I did more often turn the tables by being the local news guy knowing the local authorities. I will share those on another post.
Read Small Market Journalism: The Pros and Cons by Jennifer Retter here and find other informative posts by this talented writer and reporter.
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