Newspaper Junkie Goes Cold Turkey (well almost)

KOCT has been providing local community information since its incorporation in 1984. When I joined the organization there were at least two large newspapers and many weekly papers in north county.  I wrote a weekly column for one of those papers and Bob Bowditch, the founder of KOCT, wrote a cable column for the Blade-Citizen for many years.

I love newspapers and pick up every local print offering that I find on the newsstands or sidewalk racks. Growing up in Santa Fe Springs meant access to at least three daily papers such as the LA Times and the Herald-Examiner. But that was then.

For the first time in my adult life, I have stopped receiving a local newspaper and I miss it. (OK I’m still getting the Sunday paper—I couldn’t go cold turkey)  Our only remaining regional paper has gotten too expensive to subscribe to and the digital reading experience is not the same—navigation is slow and cumbersome, there are too many pop-up ads, and with fewer local reporters, there are only a handful of new local stories per week.

I’m not alone on this journey—the July/August Columbia Journalism Review says that only 23 percent of Americans get their news from print compared with 75 percent who get it from digital (Reuters Survey).
And while it’s true we have more media choices then at any time in history, we probably have less local news than we did only a few short years ago.  Kent Davy, the former Editor for the North County Times, sent me this link to a fascinating though depressing article by Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab, entitled “As giant platforms rise, local news is getting crushed”.

The article discusses the ongoing loss of newspapers and how “Young people are already tuning out local TV news, just as they did to newspapers earlier…” Many young people state that they get most of their news from Facebook and other social media sites.

KOCT has also been affected by the many changes in media and media habits. Once, viewers would find us because we were on the standard channel tier they would ‘surf’ through and then discover a local program they enjoyed.  Today, however, like most PEG channels across the country, we are only available on the standard definition tier and many if not most viewers surf only in the high-definition tier and don’t realize we are still producing a wealth of valuable highly local programs.

Progress has had one big advantage over the past, however.  Formerly, KOCT was available only in Oceanside on Cox Cable. Today we are also available county-wide on AT&T’s U-Verse and world-wide via the internet on KOCT.ORG
KOCT streams both channels and we endeavor to make all of our programs available as VOD or Video On Demand. That means today’s viewer can watch when they want to and not just when KOCT puts their favorite program on their TV schedule. But we are also competing against thousands of other media choices from “House of Cards” to cute kitties.

KOCT does have one huge advantage over these other choices—we are the only non-commercial independent media outlet whose sole focus is the north county community we all live in and value. We cover and replay local and regional government meetings and provide long-form programs about local transportation, water, development and election issues. Not one commercial channel can say the same thing. That is what gives me hope and why I think we have a place and a future in this rapidly changing digital media universe.  There is only one KOCT- Your Community Channel.

Tom ReeserComment