Local News

Tourism revenues are way down, and Maui's public schools and libraries are confronted with big budget cuts, but I'm told the newspapers here are still doing pretty well -- that's one big contrast with San Francisco.

The conventional wisdom is that there's still plenty of demand for local newspapers. Since local news tends to be news locals already know, part of the point of putting it in a newspaper is probably to affirm the local community's importance.

Nearly half the cover of this week's "Lahaina News" is taken up by an article by reporter Walter Chihara about "Lahaina girl Teri Sutherland" who was shot in the neck by her ex-boyfriend in Southern California two years ago, and has since been steadily recovering with the support of her family. The newspaper article begins, "Guardian angels come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes, but more often than not, these warriors of mercy wear the uniforms of the police force, emergency medical technicians and firefighters of of our communities." Of the firefighter who administered mouth-to-mouth rescuscitation, we are told, "God tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'Thomas Barilla, it's time to pay it forward.'" Sometimes Chihara is more subtle, telling us that the ex-boyfriend died in jail of an apparent heart attack on "All Saint's Day -- Teri's birthday," and letting us draw our own conclusions about the degree of Divine involvement.

I like it about this story that we know whose side the reporter is on. The major U.S. newspapers strive to be unbiased. It's physiologically impossible for humans to be unbiased, so the result is lifeless prose. Having a bias is an essential component of having a style, of having a voice. Local newspapers have the advantage that they're allowed to be biased in favor of "local values."

I hope Ms. Sutherland continues to get better.

1 thought on “Local News”

  1. I've heard it said several times that, with the demise of the conventional newspapers, we're not going to get "objective" reporting any more. So maybe this is a good thing? I have all kinds of respect for New York Times — but whenever anyone writes anything about Russia, I wish they wouldn't. As any lit student knows, there's no such thing as a summary without interpretation. So why not make the interpretative action clear?

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