I think Seth Godin is brilliant and I love his blog. But he misses a pretty big point in this post:
Essentially, he is saying that newspapers must now serve communities of special interests. (Right so far.)
But then he largely dismisses the special interest of a community based on geography.
Here’s the problem: Seth Godin’s brilliance is based on being outside the box. He is a wonder when it comes to seeing things from a different perspective and ignoring the comfort zone.
But when it comes to going home at night, most people want – no, demand – to be in the comfort zone; inside the box. They want to go to bed knowing the things that really matter are working well. Things like safety and recreation and family and comfort.
There are, of course, different ways to achieve that. One, for example, is to live in a gated community where people of different economic, ethnic or racial background have trouble getting in, and where a well-paid management company takes care of the rest.
But another is to live in a community more like mine, with sidewalks and shops and some level of interdependence among its members. Such a community is organic and only works when fragile balances are tended. Which, of course, means that its members feel invested in knowing what’s going on.
Most of our urban areas are surrounded by places like this. And in such places, people DO care about their neighborhoods. Local newspapers that truly foster a sense of this kind of community will continue to thrive in exactly the way Godin specifies. And they’ll do so by being more important than the newspapers that serve the distributed communities he describes. Because, unlike those newspapers – which serve the special interests that make us different – the local newspaper serves the thing that makes us all the same: The basic human yearning to live in groups.