Monday, September 19, 2005

On competition, and wishing local media would step up

Maggie says:
On Saturday I had one of the best party conversations I've had in ages, featuring me feeling extra sparky and a local media hound/Boston refugee who was more than satiating my desire to have smart talk about Boston and the Sox and Albuquerque and politics and... our local media.

Here's the thing: we agreed that what Albuquerque's print media is suffering from is a lack of competition and a desire to be better. Print media in town is very pigeonholed as to what they each provide - and worse, they're perfectly content with the tiny little space they've carved out and want nothing more. The thing is, if you have a handful of newspapers doing only a tiny, tiny thing well, who's going to do everything else they don't, and what are Albuquerque residents supposed to read and be satisfied? We can each read it all, but we'll still be unsatisfied. And that's the problem. In a town with lots of media outlets, shouldn't each make the other better?

Imagine a town where there are two daily newspapers owned by the same company and housed in the same building. Each does something a little different, each does a couple of things well. But neither is a good newspaper. Neither provides enough of anything to its readers. And worse, they know that and are okay with it. That's the Albuquerque Tribune and the Albuquerque Journal. Now spice it up a little: mix in the Alibi, ABQ's alternative weekly. It used to be great, but now it's ho-hum, too. What's a local reader to do? Enter bloggers. Now that Duke City Fix is in town, we have folks asking the questions our media outlets aren't proactive enough to ask themselves. We have clear evidence on the Fix and tons of other local blogs that smart people aren't satisfied with what they're getting from their newspapers. I don't think the Web is the answer, though - I'm old-school in that I'll probably open up a printed newspaper every morning until I die - the answer is that our newspapers need to be better. And we shouldn't have to shame them into improving themselves, either. Why don't they want to be better?

Here's where competition comes in. My new friend and I imagined a scene straight out of Anchorman (you know which one I mean), where our local print reporters would fight it out in a back alley for bragging rights, sabotage each other's printing presses, blow up each other's computers in the name of good, old-fashioned competition. Because Trib and Journal reporters meekly waving to each other every morning is not the way to kick each other's asses. It clearly isn't the way to produce a better paper.

I feel like the tide is turning in that via the Web, there's lots and lots of talk about folks being pissed with local print media. So our dissatisfaction is documented. Now: how will our newspapers respond?