City magazines fill the newspaper gap

An appetite for hyper-local journalism hasn’t diminished, despite digital media’s disruptive impact.

The Seattle Met is known as a hub for food, offering advice on the best places to go in the Emerald City. But last year the magazine hired a full-time, daily reporter, to cover City Hall. It’s a big hire for an editorial staff of just seven people (10 if you include the art department).

The reporter updates a politics blog daily, while also uncovering larger stories for the magazine. It came about because of a rise in interest over political stories surrounding the 2016 election, which bled into local politics. With the Seattle Post-Intelligencer no longer publishing a daily paper (it ceased in 2009), the Seattle Times became the only paper of record for daily coverage. Met’s editor-in-chief James Gardner saw this as an opportunity.

Because the Met doesn’t have the resources that a newspaper like the Times has, it can “pick and choose” what to cover, adds Gardner. This is beneficial because the Met has a budding and highly important online presence, which is unique among city magazines. It focuses on local issues, but they also seek to find stories that may hold a national interest as well. Gardner often selects pieces that are “a national story that just happens to be in Seattle.”

When talking to regional magazines like these, a consistent reminder comes up.  “We’ve always focused on very local issues,” says John Fox, editor-in-chief of Cincinnati Magazine. But what differentiates Cincinnati from the other Cincy publications is that the magazine continues to pay the bills, so the print product continues to receive “the vast majority of resources,” he added.

This allows coverage that isn’t focused on breaking news or quick hits on the web. Instead, it provides a deep, drawn out analysis of the stories behind the news. That’s the type of coverage that newspapers have smaller budgets and declining resources for.

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