There are dozens of other examples of local social networking feeds providing “real news” that the professional organizations seemed to miss. Granted, the debate over the quality and balance of these reports can be critiqued. Some of the reports are self-serving to the messenger, while others provide no context or lack the institutional knowledge or professionalism that often defines professional news coverage. The truth is most of the Tweets and Facebook posts come nowhere near the standards established by The Modesto Bee in its heyday—though their quality has improved during the past year, as these citizen reporters work to gain credibility among their followers.
But these complaints aside, the reality seems to be that this loose network is filling the news gap, with or without the help of Patch or The Huffington Post. As The Bee and the other professional organizations continue to retreat, this loose network of citizen journalists will continue to grow out of a public necessity to stay connected with the community, and they will continue to improve their quality in order to keep followers and gain acceptance as information sources. It’s even possible that they could become the primary news source in the region, if the professional news outlets continue their decline into obsolescence.
News marches on, even in cities like Modesto, even if the major players don’t.
This piece is part of CJR’s Nov/Dec 2011 roundtable discussion of the future of news in Modesto, California, and places like it. For more on the topic, click here.