A serial toilet clogger, school land purchases and a tour of a “Vulcan” mine: Look for local impact in your news reporting

Roseanne’s racist tweet, Trump’s attacks on his own attorney general and the tenuous nature of North Korea’s potential disarmament dominated the news this morning.

Question: How much does any one of those events impact readers in your area?
Answer: Somewhere between “very little” and “not at all.”

When it comes to how you should fashion your news judgment, stick to the idea of audience centricity and look for local pieces that will matter just as much, if not more, to people in the area. This isn’t to say ABC cancelling “Roseanne” isn’t important, but it is to say you’re probably better off letting someone else carry the water on that one as you go out and do some digging into local matters.

Here’s an example of a local story in a small town that affects people: A school board is looking into a $600,000 land purchase:

The Oconto Falls School Board continues to explore a parcel of land that is going up for sale near the high school and elementary school as a possible site for a future middle school.

Superintendent Dean Hess told the board at its May 14 meeting that the property is across County Road I from the high school and elementary school complex.

“Recently, I was contacted by counsel for the Gauthier family to let me know that they would be working with a third-party representative and also a Realtor to offer that land, make it available, and the school district would be one of the parties that they would be contacting specifically for that potential purchase,” Hess said.

The board first learned about the property’s availability a few months ago. Although a decision is at least five years away, the aging Washington Middle School will need to be extensively renovated or replaced, and the proximity to the existing schools makes the property attractive for a new school.

It’s not exactly the most earth-shattering writing, and the issue of the money, the need for a public vote and other goodies are tucked way down in the story. Still, it’s an important topic for an area like this and it’s likely to have local folks talking.

Local pride is also something good local publications should pay attention to. Consider this 60th anniversary piece on the Iron Mountain Iron Mine:

VULCAN — For six decades, visitors from all over the world have taken a train ride 2,600 feet underground to experience part of the region’s heritage.

The Iron Mountain Iron Mine this year is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first walking tour at the popular tourism attraction in Dickinson County.

Karen Secinaro, who is starting her fifth year as manager, couldn’t be prouder of the business started in 1956 by both her father, Eugene Carollo, who will be 90 this year, and her late uncle, Albert Carollo.

“It’s wonderful. It’s been an honor managing the family-owned business for the last four years. We have lots planned for our 60th year,” Secinaro said.

The family angle needed to be explored more in this write up, but I couldn’t pass up a mining story with the dateline of “Vulcan.”

One of the biggest things locally owned, locally based media outlets used to have going for them was that sense of knowing what really mattered in a community. It could be school boards and farm land or it could be tornado shelter regulations and hunting season. Even more, they were intrigued at the local level when things happened that had people talking. Unfortunately, a lot of that eroded with mergers, conglomeration and the proliferation of 24/7 talking head TV. Your job is to find things that matter to the folks around you who read your coverage and watch your local news and report on them.

Case in point, another weird Sheboygan County story. We might finally learn what compels a man to repeatedly clog a women’s public toilet with 20-ounce soda bottles for more than a year. Police arrested a suspect on Memorial Day.

Can’t wait to hear the answer.

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