"Creative Destruction" in Local Information Environments: Views of City Magazine Editors

Title"Creative Destruction" in Local Information Environments: Views of City Magazine Editors
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Sivek, S. C.
Affiliation (1st Author)Linfield College
Section or WGMedia Production Analysis Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeMPAW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)MPAW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleLocal news production
Submission ID5135

Today’s global magazine industry is adapting rapidly to incorporate new technologies, changes in readers’ habits, and opportunities newly available due to shifts in complementary media industries. In particular, city magazines in the U.S. are facing serious competition from digital media, often user-generated, that now supplant the magazines’ traditional local functions. However, city magazines also have new possibilities for public service journalism due to the decline of local newspapers and the loss of much of newspapers’ “watchdog” function. Editors of these magazines are experiencing a blend of fear and excitement brought about by this “creative destruction” and by the shifts in power among local information providers and audiences. This study examines the fundamental changes in U.S. city magazine production processes through a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with senior editors at 15 award-winning city magazines. These magazines represent a mix of ownership, readership, and geographic circumstances. The editors’ responses speak to the current and developing roles of new technologies in informing local communities; the nature of local journalism in a shifting media environment, especially as audiences now can inform each other directly through social media; and the public service that local media can offer in a tightly constrained economic situation. While these editors know their print publications may be imperiled, they are also attempting to innovate so that their publications remain profitable and useful within their communities. Editors are particularly critical to this development because they must respond to the changes in their environment and audience, conceptualize the right blend of content to accommodate those changes, and allocate resources accordingly. For some magazines, this transformation has involved a greater investment in investigative public interest journalism; for others, audience engagement and community outreach, in both online or face-to-face forms, have become paramount.Though these editors may represent just one genre of journalism, their perspectives reveal much larger insights about the impact of changing economic and technological structures on the production of journalism as a whole. To determine whether and how citizens are equipped to deal with a turbulent age, it is important to understand how each local information provider goes about the process of developing and distributing its own unique contribution to the information environment.

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