PAULINE'S PICKS: Site Uses a Simple Podcast to Tell Local Stories

By: Pauline Millard Readers can get national and world news anywhere; practically everyone is streaming wire reports onto their sites nowadays. Even MySpace wants to get in on it. But small local papers have an edge that the big guys don't: They know their neighborhood. As important as it is to know the updates on the Iraq war, it's just as important to know about how that war is affecting the town, or even what's happening down the street.

Let's get over the fact that newspaper circulation is down. We know that. We also know that readers go online for most of their news. Small newspapers may not have huge budgets to work with, but that doesn't mean they need to pour thousands of dollars into equipment and training. Most multimedia that readers want: photos, slideshows, and even podcasts, can be learned like a hobby. Start simply, and build from there.

Recently I found the Liberty County Times Web site. It covers the area of Chester, a town in northern Montana, almost on the border of Canada. The site has a simple interface and links for such things as local sports and weather.

What struck me as different about the Liberty County Times was that just as you enter the site, a podcast launches that broadcasts local stories. It's crisp and well-produced, and if your eyes are closed it sounds just like something on National Public Radio. There's one piece about a local veterinarian who once had to remove a uterine tumor from an rhinoceros. Another piece focuses on a family who warns about the dangers of inhaling nitrous oxide, after their son died from it.

When wondering about what to do about sinking circulation numbers and readers going to the Web, local papers have a lot more options than they realize. Most importantly, they need to focus on their strengths. They are experts on their area and at the end of the day, readers want to know about their community.

Nevertheless, they might have to rethink how they're telling their stories. Maybe a 10-inch story could be replaced with a minute-long podcast? Maybe a quick slideshow of a local fair is more effective than collecting quotes from attendees? Writers consider themselves creative people, and if there has ever been a time in journalism to flex one's creative muscles, this is it.

Is your paper experimenting with new forms to tell news? If so, let me know.

Here are some past Pauline's Picks:

AP's asap Creates Video for a Young, Niche Beat

The Fayetteville Observer looks to the web to fill a nightly newscast need .

The Washington Post uses various multimedia in a special report and Post Traumatic stress Disorder and the Walter Reed medical center. Tells Local Stories -- With Audio Slideshows

Podcasts on The New York Times

The Miami Herald's 'What The Five!'


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