One thing that remains constant is the news. Most of us probably watch the news every day in some form or another, whether that be through clips from an online source or the nightly news on television. Maybe you’re someone who loves the news to the point where you’ve decided to start your own community newspaper. It’s actually pretty common for people to start online newspapers these days, as many local papers have gone away.
What Is an Online Community Newspaper?
An online community newspaper is simply a publication that covers or writes about community events and is published via the internet. Although you won’t be the New York Times, you will serve as a voice for your community. If your community or small town lost a local newspaper or never had one, you’ll be providing a source of information for your neighbors and other community members.
Keep It Local
When starting an online newspaper, you’ll want to make sure that you keep coverage local. This is not to say you can never write about events outside your community but that your primary focus should be local. This means you’re covering things relevant to your community. Some events and happenings you might want to write about are:
Of course, since it’s your newspaper, you can pretty much cover what you want. But there are certain areas of news that people seem to be more interested in than others. Crime is a good example. ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ is the saying in the news business. People also have an interest in colorful characters, things to do in the community, and opinion pieces.
Don’t Neglect Site Design
You’ll want to give careful consideration to the design of your site. Don’t think just because you’re a small newspaper people won’t care about how the site looks. A well-designed website can attract readers just as a poorly designed site can drive them away. Fortunately, you’ll likely publish through a blogging platform, which should offer some newspaper-worthy templates.
Still, you’ll want to be aware of things like the font size and the type of font you use. You’ll want something that’s highly readable without looking unusual or gimmicky to readers. Also, you want people to take you seriously, so take a look at how the pros design their online papers and aim for something similar.
Incorporate Weather Information
The weather is something that everyone seems to be interested in because it affects so many aspects of our lives. This being the case, you’ll want to make sure that your site offers readers the opportunity to access up-to-date weather data. Although there are many ways to find out the weather these days, a weather forecast on your site will make it another option for readers.
A weather tracker can also serve to make your site look more professional. The more people take you seriously as a source for news and information, the more they’ll want to return to your site.
Maintain Journalistic Standards
Again, you might not be the New York Times, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to have journalistic integrity. This basically means reporting something only after you’ve verified the facts. It also means covering both or all sides of a story when there is more than one side. If an activist says a local factory is spewing pollution, don’t just talk to the activist talk to the factory owner as well.
Getting both sides of a story will go a long way with establishing credibility in the minds of your readers. It’s also your responsibility as someone who’s practicing journalism. Even if you haven’t been trained as a professional journalist, you’re operating as one.
Starting an online newspaper for your community is a noble pursuit. People want to know what’s going on in their backyards, and reporting on those things in a responsible way contributes to the well-being of the community. Every community newspaper should try to keep the news local, design a site that looks professional, and maintain journalistic standards. Doing these things will help to establish an online community newspaper as reputable and not just as a personal project.