By Todd Franko
A few weeks back, a local blogger e-mailed me a request.
The person was asking The Vindicator to do a story that dug deeper into a local agency.
There wasn’t a ton of mischief with the agency or the request. On the surface, the agency is doing a relatively good job and is sticking to its mission. But a lot of its money hides in the background and escapes solid reporting.
The blogger asked if we’d take a look into it, and we probably will at some point.
What was interesting about the request is that it came from a blogger.
Bloggers are supposed to be the future of community’s news, some bloggers and other netaholics say.
Some believe bloggers will serve the role now served by traditional media — you know, me — the guy with horns coming out of my head who drinks blood at midnight.
Bloggers will report.
Bloggers will communicate.
“Your news” from “your neighbors” sounds quaint.
(For the record, the blogger who asked me for the story is a newsroom friend and does a great job with civic activism. So this is not a personal knock at all. But there’s reality to note when a top blogger seeks out a newspaper to do a story that, I would assume, they can opine about at some point.)
A future of bloggers and news is a tiny part of the bigger discussion on the future of community information when newspapers die.
Our industry is struggling.
It’s not so much a decline in news value and interest as it is a shift in advertising options. It’s the advertising revenue, not the price you pay for the newspaper, that is our business’s lifeblood.
Though only a few newspapers are closing, others are have dramatically cut back on the space and services they can offer, including us.
Heck, even Ben Affleck mused in disbelief this week about life without his hometown Boston Globe.
I don’t think you can beat up our story today on hospital surplus goods at the old Southside Hospital written by reporter Pete Milliken.
That’s where the dream of a future of bloggers as news sources crashes into the reality of how hard it is to gather news. It’s also a measure of the importance of what newspapers do.
For months, the tale and legend of what happened to thousands of dollars in property that resided in the old Southside Hospital has circulated around our community.
There were hundreds of hospital beds.
Miscellaneous items and stainless-steel tables.
And instead of it being turned into cash via some auction or resale or scrap when Mahoning County took over the facility, it was left to go to whoever was on site and whoever could cash in.
It was certainly talk and legend, but it was also truth. And that truth became a problem for some people.
The county fought to obtain the building and move operations into the facility. It was a move I wholly support.
But in the process, they left a gap in the transfer of the building. That lack of planning left open the potential for abuse.
According to others, there was no abuse. No crimes were committed.
But you can make your own decision by reading the story that Pete Milliken worked on for four days.
And that’s where our role is tough to replicate, whether you’re a blogger or some other media.