Experiment to determine if citizen journalism is good fit to cover small-town government
Today we start an experiment. The “Mandeville Daily” will attempt to provide relevant, no-frills coverage of the goings-on at City Hall. This is an online news site, a blog, a journal. Whatever you prefer to call it, it’s just me, doing this as a hobby, period.
Who am I? Read “Who is behind the Mandeville Daily?” to learn more.
This type of news coverage was traditionally the job of small-town newspapers across America, but sadly, those days have come to a close, at least here in Mandeville they have.
The age of the Internet and digital publishing squeezed the local mom-and-pop newspaper practically out of existence. Those that have survived have gone from publishing daily, down to bi-weekly, and even just weekly in many cases. It’s the end of an era, and it’s sad to see.
I guess you could say people wanted both their music and their news for free, but yet today, neither are.
Once upon a time here in Mandeville, there were the St. Tammany News-Banner, The St. Tammany Farmer and the New Orleans-based Times-Picayune all providing Mandeville coverage. Having multiple news outlets cover the same beat was a system of checks and balances, and it gave readers different perspectives of the same thing.
Today, we only have Nola.com which is the Times-Picayune and Morning Advocate combined, owned by the Georges Media Group, which in 2017 also purchased the struggling St. Tammany Farmer. The News-Banner printed its last edition in 2013 after merging with its sister newspapers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
One could argue that any corruption we’ve seen here in Mandeville in the last few decades can indirectly be attributed to the slow disappearance of the small-town newspaper and the absence of the watchdog reporter at city hall.
The folks at Nola.com seem to have more of a social agenda these days in their news coverage, including crime and politics, and when they do cover Mandeville, it’s usually from the perspective of an outsider looking in.
We need a local telling the local story, keeping government transparent and honest.
I have a steadfast belief that what happens at City Hall is important and people should pay attention. Your day-to-day life can be directly affected by what a handful of people do there twice a month.
It is not enough that your news comes from a muddled post on Facebook by a well-intentioned friend, complaining about what “those morons” at City Hall did last night.
The small-town newspaper is supposed to be your “neighbor” representative at council meetings when you can’t go yourself. I live here in Mandeville and love this city. I’m very interested in what goes on at City Hall.
We’re all journalists by default, and the First Amendment of the Constitution keeps the government from silencing us. Being a journalist isn’t some license or privilege granted to a select few by the government or big media. Pop culture, movies and TV may make it seem that way at times. You have the right to tell your story.
There’s an old expression, which I always thought came from journalism, but perhaps not: “Consider the source.”
We don’t need Facebook or Twitter slapping “Fact Checks” on our posts or removing them altogether in the name of “protecting Democracy.” It’s up to us as individuals to be smart and to “consider the source.”
I remember an old journalist once telling me he didn’t like “Fact Check” stories, and this was back in the 80s. He said when a news organization publishes a so-called fact check story, it usually means they have an agenda themselves and it ain’t to the truth. He said that straight and honest coverage is a fact-check in and of itself.
Why call it Mandeville Daily? The “Daily” is an homage to the extinct small-town daily newspaper, and a sincere hope that these publications might find a way to return one day.
In the meantime, I’m attending these meetings now that they’re in-person once again. I figure why not put my old journalist hat back on and tell the story, as a hobby, in my spare time. It’ll be just straight reporting, no agenda, no frills. Journalism at its core… your neighbor telling you what happened as best he can. Read it if you like.