MODERATOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Hendrix Journalism School’s exciting panel on the future of local news! As usual, all proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding additional panels on the future of local news.
The audience and panelists clap appreciatively.
MODERATOR: Our esteemed panelists for this evening’s discussion are recently laid-off editor-in-chief of The Local Daily News, Nancy Jocks, recently laid-off city hall reporter at The Local Times, Sandy Amerson, recently laid-off sports reporter at NeighborhoodNews.net, John Griswold, and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Jason Paddock, who worked at The Neighborhood Post before the internet happened and will spend the whole time talking about how newspapers used to have money.
JASON: You know, back in 1981, the Post let me expense 15 helicopter rides all across the country. It was for a series I was writing about the helicopter industry. One of my best pieces.
MODERATOR: Yes, I keep meaning to read that one. Now, to kick things off, how important would all of you say local news is to the fabric of American society?
NANCY: Very important.
JASON: Extremely important.
SANDY: Incredibly important.
JOHN: Tremendously important.
The audience murmurs in agreement.
MODERATOR: Got it. And how dire is the current state of the local news industry?
NANCY: Very dire.
JASON: Extremely dire.
SANDY: Incredibly dire.
JOHN: Tremendously dire.
The audience murmurs in agreement.
MODERATOR: I see. Now, let’s discuss potential solutions on how to improve things. Nancy, during your tenure at The Local Daily News, the publication tried out a number of different and innovative strategies to develop a sustainable economic model, correct?
NANCY: Yes, that’s right.
MODERATOR: And did any of them work?
JOHN: We actually did have some success with one of our strategies over at NeighborhoodNews.net.
MODERATOR: Excellent! How did you make the business work over there?
JOHN: We stopped paying people. The company was seeing a healthy profit until the Department of Labor stepped in and told us we couldn’t operate this way, at which point we fired most of our employees and switched over to a new business model.
MODERATOR: And what business model was that?
JOHN: Porn. It’s mostly a porn site now.
MODERATOR: Captivating stuff. Sandy, you haven’t said much yet, and I’m basically out of questions to ask even though we still have 57 minutes left. Want to talk about local news and, I don’t know, Facebook for a little while?
SANDY: Facebook has had a terrible impact on local news, and I’m very happy to see that it is currently trendy to hate the company. The four remaining staffers at The Local Times are all hopeful that, if enough people keep talking about how Facebook is bad, it will eventually just sort of go away, and local news will be saved. Follow me on Instagram for more thoughts on this.
MODERATOR: Thanks for sharing, Sandy. I would now like to open it up to questions from the audience.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Hi. I’m still confused and terrified by the election of Donald Trump and have spent the past two years desperately searching for something easily understandable to blame for his victory. Can I please blame it entirely on the decline of local news?
NANCY: Well, yes, I think that certainly played a role, along with many other factors like—
AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Got it, that “yes” was all I needed to hear. Thanks.
MODERATOR: Okay, anyone else? Yes, you?
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: Thanks. I think local news is great and was just wondering if there was anything we as community members could do to help support it. Besides attending more of these panel discussions, of course.
JASON: Well, yeah, it’s pretty simple, actually. Just, you know, be willing to pay for it.
After a brief silent pause, the panelists and audience members all burst out laughing.
MODERATOR: Good one, John! And that reminds me to encourage everyone to stick around for our next panel discussion on the best ways to get around paywalls.