"All news is local" -True? Should it be?

The saying “all news is local” is honored daily by all the media.
When a passenger ferry sinks off Crete, the headline will say whether anyone from your country was aboard.
A report on a new postage rate will be dominated with how people in your town are dealing with it.
A prison riot in another place is covered primarily by information about local prison reform debates.

Does this attitude reflect reality? Don’t people want to read about boats sinking unless someone from their country was aboard?
Should it be that way, since only a minuscule portion of the readers are worried that someone they actually know was on board?

I’ve never heard of “all news is local” - and I certainly don’t think it’s true. The ongoing genocide in Darfur has jack-all to do with me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear about it (or only hear about it to the extent that it affects American interests in the region). Likewise, today my favorite CNN story involved three chihuahua puppies in New York that were born without their front legs. Not local to me whatsoever, but I still was interested and actually watched their video (and, of course, the ad that preceded it - making CNN very happy indeed).

Now on to the…


I have, of course, heard “all politics is local” - Tip O’Neill’s famous phrase. Google Fight puts that at a whopping 297,000 results to “all news is local”'s measly 604. In this case, I think some well-intentioned journalism types have misguidely tried to paraphrase O’Neill’s phrase. But I don’t think it works. YMMV.

Somehow I don’t think any newsmen are talking about CNN when they say “local”.
If you read newspapers or watch local news you will know what the saying means.
The national news headline will be “Gas Prices Rise”. The local news headline will be either “Local Gas Prices Up” or “Local Gas Prices Buck Trend”

Yes, but when Tip O’Neill was talking about all politics being local, he truly meant ALL politics.

War across the globe? How does that affect ME personally? Price of gas? Neighbor’s kid going off to fight? Do I have to switch my vacation from Sunny Baghdad to somewhere else?

Cutting taxes? How will that affect ME personally? Do I see money back? Does my business see money back? If so, will they raise my salary?

Enacting standards to halt global warming? How does that affect ME personally? Do I have to take the stinky bus? Does my company have to buy all new equipment? Do I have to take new environment-friendly training courses?

You see, political actions have ramifications locally (as illustrated above). Or, maybe, the politician himself has to think locally. Let’s say there’s a fluffy bill in Congress that seeks to thank Japan for its friendship and ask them to continue close political and economic ties to the United States. The esteemed Senator from Arizona will probably sign off without a passing thought towards this bill. The esteemed Senator from Michigan, maybe not so much with Ford laying off people left and right this year. The point is that the Senators have to think about their local constituencies when engaged in politics, or pay the price in the next election.

Re: local news.

It’s interesting that you bring up local news, which is, by definition, local. Of course they are trying to make the local stories relate - because that’s what people want in local news. News that is from their area, or affects someone or something in their area.

But it’s not (as you note) what they expect when they turn on CNN or Fox News or MSNBC or the BBC. There they want national and international coverage of important matters. No need to tie it to anything locally. Ergo, all news is (demonstrably) NOT local.

Thank you for your opinion.
Anyone else have an opinion? (and please ignore Tip O’Neill and his admittedly more famous quote about politics. This thread is about news, derivative quotation notwithstanding)

Sometimes you get the feeling thaty take it too far. Like when they want the home town man on the street reaction to U.N. appointments. If they asked my elected official, okay, she may eventually vote on it. But why some guy they collared at the bus stop who didn’t even hear of the news item until they told him about it to ask his opinion?
But looking for a “local angle”, even if you have to stretch a lot, is the only logical reason for local newspapers at all. But I much prefer the AP versions of national and world stories to the ones with a local byline, just because of that forced local tie in.

Most local tv and newspaper news organizations aren’t really designed to cover national or international news. So, all they’re able to add to the national network’s coverage of the boat sinking is that the wife of Billy Bob Joe, who coached Central’s football team in the 1970s was aboard.

In some instances, they try to add a local aspect to a national story. A Katrina refugee who went to Fairbanks, Alaska is probably a more interesting story to people in Alaska than coverage of those in Texas.

I don’t think I understand what the debate is here, but then perhaps that’s because I’m coming from the perspective of a much smaller country. In the UK, for example, the BBC will have national news, followed by local news. The local news does not report national or international news - what would be the point, we just heard it - so the news IS of course local.

So, in the US, do some people ONLY watch local news stations or read local papers? Do national news channels show locally tailored news as well?

You see, on my tiny island, everyone reads national papers and watches national news (both of which report international news). SOME people might also read a local paper and most would also watch a local news report, but not to the exclusion of national and international news. Frankly, local news tends to be of the ‘butcher’s dog steals sausages’ kind of thing.

I spent ten years in the TV news business as a photographer and producer. When a big news story hits (hurricane, plane crash, terrorist attack) it is SOP to search for a local angle. Someone in the area with a family member that was at or near the site of the event, a local company who will supply material or services to the affected area…anything that enables the station to establish a local tie.

Why? Marketing.

Local news is a product designed to attract eyeballs to the screen. If a primetime tease can say “A local family is affected by the tragedy dujour”, then more people will watch.

Hey, look, I own a local newspaper!

It’s true that, for newspapers, news should be local. Except for very few truly monolithic newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (both of whom I’ve written for) daily newspapers are losing ground in terms of circulation and advertising at the rate of about 1% per year since the mid-1990s. In effect, those who want national and international news can get it from radio, television and the net. (Example: I moved out of DC over three years ago and still read The Washington Post every morning.)

OTOH, weekly free newspapers with a strong local emphasis continue to grow in circulation and advertising. They offer coverage not available in national dailies and that television and radio can’t cover properly: Local events, City Council notes, whatever are their bread and butter.

I don’t use newspapers like this as an objective news source because I have difficulty taking them seriously. Most of the ones I’ve seen seem to be of the “Workers unite in the glorious struggle” variety.

Almost all newspaper subscribers get local the local paper only. Only about 5 papers have daily delivery outside their local city. Plus a tabloid called USA Today that has little breaking news, more like a magazine in newsprint form.
As for local news carrying national stories, yes, very definitely. I don’t think they did a decade ago, but now it takes up most of their time slot. Doesn’t make sense, but I suppose it’s cheaper to get shared coverage from the network than going out and finding their own news.

When we teach journalism in college, we teach that “all news is local” as a way of reminding j-students of John Donne’s caution to not send to ask for whom the bell tolls. **Johathan Chance ** is exactly right – nobody walks out onto their porch to pick up a local newspaper hoping to read about the latest news from Iraq. But if a local lad was killed or wounded in Iraq (as has happened in my hometown) they want to know about that. Years ago, when a cruise ship caught fire off the coast of Alaska, two local people were aboard. I was then the editor of the local (6,000 circulation) daily newspaper. You can bet that my readers wanted to know how the local couple fared, what they had to say, etc. When the U.S. government was selling wheat to Russia, it affected the price of wheat grown here in eastern Colorado. We reported on that effect.

The phrase “All news is local” is also a nod to the globalization of my small town. If the U.S. government requires higher emissions standards on motor vehicles, that will affect the price of corn grown locally. If the Chinese increase their oil imports significantly, that raises the price of gasoline on Main Street in my town. If the New York Stock Exchange tanks, that makes it harder for me to get a home improvement loan, which means the local lumber yard won’t sell as many 2X4s. Tsunamis in the Pacific, starvation in Darfur, and disappearing polar bears all have an impact right here in downtown Sterling, Colorado; sometimes its small, sometimes it’s significant. We teach journalism students that “all news is local” so they’ll watch for how global issues will affect their local readers, and be prepared to inform their readers of that effect, one hopes, before it happens.

Evil One is right about marketing, too – but naturally that only pertains to broadcast. Print journalists are too pure of mind and heart to “market” anything, right Jonathan? :rolleyes:

By the way, I think it was House Speaker Sam Raburn who once said, “All politics is local,” meaning essentially the same thing. Whether journalists picked it up from him or vice versa, I don’t know.

Psst… Post 2. And I’m out.

Do you ONLY watch UK news shows and read UK papers?
Our local news has a local, national, and international segment, plus sports and weather. After that is national or world news, which will have local stuff only if it’s big enough to matter to someone 4000 miles away and would probably be like an EU paper or program.

Hmmmm. I coulda’ sworn …

Still I should have read your ENTIRE post. But then I would have missed that the phrase is sometimes attributed to O’Neill’s father.

You need to get out more. The paper’s we’re discussing center around local events and the impact of national events locally.

Example: My new edition is on the streets today. It features:

  1. 1500 words analyzing gas pricing, how it comes about, comparing historical crude prices with pump prices. There’s an 800 word sidebar concerning the effects of refinery mergers on total capacity.

  2. An analysis of changes to Ohio’s Worker’s Compensation law in the face of the Tom Noe scandal.

  3. A write up of City Council’s decision regarding the definition of a single family and the impact on the rental community in this college town.

  4. A short interview with Governor Strickland during his visit this week concerning his health plan.

  5. A write up on construction on the main drag that will become a Walgreens in 2008.

  6. 500 words on a local non-profit’s efforts to restore a local bridge.

Next week we’re analyzing recent school board decisions concerning the non-hiring of athletic coaches deemed abusive on girl’s sports teams. As well as a write up on the breaking of classified materials by one of the county commissioners and an examination of the impact of increased foreign demand on petroleum supplies.

So look before you condemn. Weekly papers are growing for a reason. And it’s not some vague, non-existent liberal hype.

Jonathan, just curious – paid or unpaid? If paid, what’s your circ? Owned locally or corporate? (None of this is germane to the discussion, I just like to swap info with fellow ink-stained wretches.) If you want, you can e-mail me.


Unpaid. All paid news is taking it in the neck so it wasn’t worth my time.

We distribute 10K and return a little under 1K per week so my pick up rate is above 90% these days. I love that fact. The local daily has 11K circ but only about 4K inside the city.

I need another salesman. Got one lying about?

Sorry, I work for a small-market radio station – I have first dibs!

What you do is some of the the purest journalism practiced today. I salute you.