Newspapers are chopping at the muscle, at the bone, to cut costs. This is sad on any number of levels, but it also raises serious questions about what people will know, especially about local government, as fewer reporters hit the streets on their behalf.
Nobody covers a community like the local newspaper. TV can't do it. Radio won't. A handful of bloggers provide interesting local commentary, but few spend the shoe leather to sit through long meetings or to dig through courthouse records or visit, every day, the police and read piles of incident reports. And then there is the investigative side of daily newspaper journalism, the watchdog role that sometimes catches the bad guys doing what they shouldn't be doing.
The bad guys, I'm afraid, are about to have a field day. Developers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians will soon have a free ride thanks to fewer reporters checking the records, attending meetings, sniffing out good stories. I'm hoping a few independent bloggers will take on this role, and I suspect quite a few will, but the systematic coverage of local government will suffer.
What people know about their communities, their schools, that's the important day-to-day stuff that matters more to lives than national or international coverage, yet we'll see less and less of this.
And we'll know less.