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Intersection: State Of Local Media

Tim Brown. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Cox Enterprises says it is exploring options for ownership of 14 television stations, including WFTV in Orlando. Meanwhile Tronc, the parent company of the Orlando Sentinel, is mulling staff cuts at some of its papers. What do these decisions say about the state of local media? 

"At the end of the day it really is a business," says Tim Brown, associate director of the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. 

"Now that news is being delivered over several different kinds of platforms, local news in particular, not all of them are being monetized really well," Brown says.

Jennifer Choi, associate director for Strategic Partnerships at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, says a problem from a business standpoint is not prioritizing journalistic values.

"I think local news organizations could be savvier and kind of take ownership to really empower themselves with really creative and innovative business tools instead of being victim to the challenges of the industry," Choi says.

Choi says that as news consumption changes, the production model followed by news organizations has not changed. And Choi says, journalism schools have been playing a bigger role in some places where news organizations have cut back.

"Where there were news deserts, especially in rural areas, I'm seeing journalism schools and newspapers coming out of journalism schools and online news projects coming out of journalism and communication schools actually filling some of that information gap," Choi says.

Brown says when reporters cover the news well enough, companies are left questioning whether or not there is a need for more investment.

"The thing we have to be careful about is that we don't do is prep an audience for saying, 'This is what you're going to get and you don't have to pay a whole lot' because when the time comes when we really do need to invest it's difficult to go back out and get that," Brown says.

Choi says local media's future depends on making consumers aware of the value of news.

"If we can really invest in the next generation of leaders in tandem with all the journalism schools and high-quality training programs out there, there's still hope," Choi says.

"It's very important to have good quality news, but how do we get the consumers to be willing to accept that so that the business can continue," Brown says.

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