Snowstorm Coverage Reminds Us Once Again Why Local News Matters
Once again, the citizens of western New York endured a life-threatening snowstorm, upending Christmas celebrations and leaving tens of thousands without power, heat, water and emergency services. To date, at least 31 people have died as a direct result of the storm’s wrath and there is little doubt that count will continue to rise.
While the national media certainly covered the basics, we are reminded, yet again, how critical local news is to our very survival. Buffalo and its surrounding communities may be used to snow measured in feet rather than inches, but even this storm was one for the record books.
The weather challenges faced by cities such as Buffalo are not new, but it is the local press — radio, television, print and digital — that provide the most enduring coverage and context, focusing on specific and actionable items that can — and will — save lives. Yes, social media is able to connect us with our friend groups and perhaps amplify stories we find irresistible, but hard facts concerning emergency services, road closures, downed power lines and the next approaching storm come from dedicated individuals working in local media, living in local communities and working 24/7 despite their own personal hardships because they know what they do matters. They literally save lives.
Now imagine, life without these reliable sources of news and information. Do you believe YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok will deploy “boots on the ground” to give you the same experience? Will they install cameras at city and county meeting rooms and air endless press conferences explaining what comes next? More importantly, will they hold public officials accountable when something goes wrong, when corruption infects a local school board impacting your child’s right to a quality education? I think not. The fact remains, local news enjoys a sterling reputation for covering their communities with accuracy, immediacy, empathy and reliability. Users know we have their backs.
Local news weaves a continuous thread of information and perspective helping each of us stay connected to neighbors and strangers alike. In times of crisis, the stories and coverage coming out of local newsrooms are vital to our physical, mental and collective health as we struggle with the ongoing challenges of poverty, racism, economic disparity and violence, not to mention the onslaught of political discord and misinformation threatening to unravel the very fabric of our society.
As we end 2022 still battling the scourge of COVID-19, my New Year’s wish is that we will redouble our efforts to nourish, support and uplift local news, in its many forms, all across the country.
If you work in a local newsroom, know your work truly matters.
If you run a local media company, take action now to bolster the efforts of your newsrooms. Support, train, mentor and fund your newsrooms accordingly. Your staff will thank you and your communities will thrive. Now that is a 2023 we can all wish for.
Happy New Year.
Emily Barr is the former president and CEO of Graham Media Group.