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Can technology save local news?

Can Technology Save Local News?
Adam Clayton Powell III, senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership & Policy

While revenues decline for traditional media organizations despite high demand for news and information, technology and innovation may be saving local news, according to a report released by the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

In “Reinventing Local News: 2010,” Adam Clayton Powell III, a senior fellow at the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and director of USC’s Washington policy initiatives, updates his acclaimed 2006 book Reinventing Local News: Connecting Communities Through New Technologies.

Powell unveiled the report and discussed innovations in local news delivery at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication in Denver.

The report provides an overview of the current state of the news media, discussing the rapid decline of both newspaper circulation and revenues, as well as traditional television news viewership. “This trend is having an enormous impact on reporting and gathering information,” Powell noted. “One-tenth of newspaper newsroom positions disappeared in 2008, accelerating a trend.”

These changes contrast with the growth of cable news, as Fox News and CNN are now profitable television news sources. According to Powell, “This is largely due to the business model of cable television, where Fox and CNN receive revenue both from advertising and from fees paid by each cable and satellite subscriber. That is exactly the traditional pre-Internet newspaper model, which always collected money from both subscribers and advertisers. But now newspapers and over-the-air broadcasters are urgently trying to replicate that model online.”

In addition, the report describes the impact of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, as well as mobile telephones, all of which increasingly are being used to distribute news — citing examples such as the delivery of breaking news about the street demonstrations in Teheran or the earthquake in Haiti.

The report also analyzes the potential of the iPad and other e-readers — which Powell said many publishers view “as a tool of their economic salvation” — as well as the growing use of newspaper Web sites and attempts to monetize access to content, including News Corp.’s potential bundling of its Sky News pay-television service with a subscription to one of its printed publications, such as The Times of London.

A copy of the report is available at

Copies of the original 2006 edition of Reinventing Local News: Connecting Communities Through New Technologies is available from USC’s Figueroa Press at or from

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