Transforming The Local News

Recent news about content producer Journatic raises concerns about local news.

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Many newspapers are struggling financially so they're looking for new models.
The Hartford Courant says it uses Journatic's services to supplement its local coverage. Photo:Jon S (Flickr Creative Commons)
Libby Reinish from Free Press.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Transforming The Local News
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Transforming The Local News

The whole point of the company Journatic is that you’re not supposed to know that they exist.

What do they do? Well, they provide news stories for papers - sometimes written under fake bylines - often “reported” from far flung places. Think that story about West Hartford gas prices had the local touch? Might be someone from California...or the Philippines.

Ryan Smith worked for Journatic up until Friday. He came forward to This American Life to talk about the work he was doing with the company.

"I don't know those communities, and I have no stake in them," said Smith. "And so it didn't matter to me that I found out all the information and I got it right. There is just something inauthentic about the whole process.”

That story has embarrassed the heads of major newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Houston Chronicle.

But what is “authentic” in journalism anyway? How is this practice - seen as scandalous by many - any different than the wire services newspapers have long relied on?

Today, a look Journatic - to some the future of print others, a continuation of its downfall.

We’ll look at how it’s being used at Connecticut newspapers, including the Hartford Courant. Representatives from the Courant declined to come on the show but the Courant's parent company CT1 Media did issue a statement about Journatic:

CT1 Media has begun using Journatic, a hyper-local resource for news content, to complement its currently existing news gathering assets which consist of reporters, freelancers and other community sources. The addition of Journatic will enable CT1 Media to provide a greater depth of community news while building and cultivating a large network of local news sources in every community it covers.

After the issues concerning aliases surfaced, the Courant looked into the matter. None of the stories produced by Journatic that have appeared on have used aliases. No Journatic stories have appeared in print. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

So, what do you think? Does it matter if your news comes from afar? Are you willing to support more local journalists?