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From the editor: Local news deserves big attention

Sunday, October 22, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:18 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dear Reader:

I couldn’t get in to work Saturday morning to pen this letter. Not by car, at any rate.

Cheerleaders, bands and every vehicle imaginable blocked the streets. My nieces Kristin and Rebecca were wearing campaign stickers, but were much more interested in the candy than any sweet talk from politicians.

Their parents, from St. Louis, carve out this weekend every year. So ‘Becca missed some basketball tournaments, and KK missed a soccer game. There was no way they would miss Homecoming.

And there’s no way the Missourian would miss reporting on Homecoming. Do we cover it well enough? Nope.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the staff did a terrific job last week. I didn’t know, until Friday, about the debate as to whether Mizzou’s homecoming was the nation’s first. Or that the FarmHouse fraternity decided to put GPAs over parade floats. (Hooray! I love house decs and such, but those guys have their priorities straight.)

In fact, I suspect there was more Homecoming coverage this year than in recent years. That’s a great credit. One of the most difficult things in the newspaper business is finding fresh stories to an event that is pretty much the same year after year.

So why do I say more could be done? Consider Rob Curley.

At 35, Curley is one of the most recognizable names in the newspaper business, even though he worked in towns not a whole lot bigger than ours until just recently. When I met him, he was working in Topeka and talking about how you could actually make city council news exciting to read. When he was in Lawrence, he figured out a way to make every band in town accessible for readers, and seemingly every player and every play in KU athletics a piece of the World-Journal’s coverage.

Curley just recently was named a vice president at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. As you might guess, he’s an Internet whiz, and the stuff he’s done on the Web is rocking the newspaper industry. As Curley would say: “Dude, it’s awesome.”

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Curley’s genius doesn’t come from his ability to speak nerd. It comes from recognizing the meaning of “hyperlocal” news. What’s that? “Covering Little Leaguers like the New York Yankees,” Curley told fastcompany.com.

The Missourian will be launching new digital products over the next few months. Next year, the staff should have the tools and the training to cover Homecoming ’07 like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. You may see that kind of coverage, but only if journalists like me are ready to accept Curley’s assertion in the fastcompany.com article that newspapers “lost their way and started focusing on big investigative stuff and forgot to cover the prom or 10-year-olds playing baseball.”

I sure would hate to lose the “big investigative” stuff. But I hope we’ll continue to recognize that “big” includes a bag full of candy at a downtown parade.


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