Are the local watchdogs barking loudly enough?

Henry Powderly, a regional editor for Patch.com on Long Island and an adjunct with Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy, asked me recently to blog for Three Village Patch, the site that includes the university in its service area. I accepted, becoming one of the 8,000 local bloggers  (unpaid, in case you were wondering) whom Patch, which is owned by Aol, plans to host.

For my first post, I wrote about the lack of enterprise reporting and public accountability journalism* in coverage of the Three Village area. Nice, right? They invite me in and the first thing I do is criticize. I criticized not just Patch but also the well-established weekly newspaper in the area, The Times Beacon Record, and Newsday. Call me an ingrate if you like; I call it friendly, constructive criticism. You can read my full Patch post here.

*For readers unfamiliar with these terms, “enterprise reporting” means the kind of stories that reporters find on their own, as opposed to coverage of meetings, events, votes and so on. “Public accountability journalism” refers to the watchdog function of the press – which a June 9 FCC report on the impact of the digital revolution on local news said has waned in local coverage despite the proliferation of new media, like Patch, and new voices enabled by the Internet.

The only way in which I truly felt like an ingrate was in writing for a site that is the chief rival to The Times Beacon Record, a descendant of the paper that gave me my first newspaper-writing job back when I was in college and which currently employs three of my former students, one as its executive editor. Leah Dunaief, TBR’s founder and publisher, is a friend and mentor. But TBR doesn’t offer a true blog forum, and Patch asked me first.  I do look forward to writing more posts about the local journalism scene. As someone who has been connected to the Three Village area since my family moved to Stony Brook in 1967, who worked at Long Island weeklies for four years before attending journalism school and then spent eight years at Newsday, and as someone who now teaches journalism at the local university, I have an abiding interest in and familiarity with the subject. The blog allows me to share my observations, and I hope to get some interesting responses on the site.

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