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Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Local Consumption...of News

Apologies for the dearth of posts.  Mr. FC&G and I just finished a long stay in Key West testing out whether we could live there.  I'll share more in a future post, because I think it is an exercise that many of us will go through in our lives, but the immediate effect was that I couldn't write about what I was up to without telling every burglar in the Western Hemisphere my whereabouts.

One thing I learned, however, is the importance of a local focus.  In the sustainability movement, we talk a lot about consuming locally, and we usually mean food. After all, food grown near to the point of consumption involves less transportation, less sacrifice of quality, and more consumer control.

The same, I realized, was true for the news.

I grew up in a small town, and I was endlessly frustrated with the local paper.  The front page was filled with news that wasn't interesting 25 miles out of town, with just a cursory bit of national and international news buried in the back or referenced in the op-eds.  Like most young people, I wanted my horizons as big as they possibly could be and my world to extend beyond this sleepy little town.

As an adult, however, I realize that the local paper of a small town has it exactly right.  Look at the examples of the Key West Citizen pictured above.  On the one hand, only a local would care that the city clerk was doing a great job or that the flood map was being redrawn.  On the other hand, that's the point.  If I were a local, I would know if I wanted to vote for the city clerk -- or campaign for or against her -- the next time she ran for office.  I would know if I wanted to show up for a town meeting discussing the flood map or if I needed to call my insurance.

National and international news is great, but often there is very little we can do to dramatically impact things at that level.  What we can do, however, is get very involved at the local level, and let our efforts trickle upward to impact the nation.  And that means a front page story about how the city clerk is doing. Some of these city clerks will eventually run for a state or national office, so they deserve our scrutiny at the most local level.

Local involvement is a very sustainable activity, but it must go beyond food.  We need to select the community in which we want to live and then become active in making it succeed.  And this starts with knowing all the local news.
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