Radio Scanner reporting on Facebook

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February 21, 2014
A Radio Shack police fire radio scanner in the NCPa office.

If you’re a NorthcentralPa Facebook follower, you’ve probably noticed that we’re blogging local news as it happens. I’d like to share some thoughts about this with you.

The mechanics of the scanner reporting are simple. I have police radio scanners in my office, living room and car. As I hear an event that I think our NorthcentralPa Facebook followers will find interesting, I start to blog it on Facebook.  As more details emerge I update the Facebook thread. Sometimes our readers add more details. Occasionally they are at the scene, perhaps stuck in the traffic, they’ll take a picture with their cell phone and post it on our Facebook wall, adding even more details.

We try to add Internet resources to our reporting, such as Google Maps links, Facebook links and more.

Why do this? Local news reporting has declined significantly in the past decade. Through the years I’ve been fortunate to have seen the active newsrooms of many radio stations including  WLYC / WILQ Williamsport in the 1970s, WSQV Jersey Shore in the 1980s, WWPA Williamsport, WGRC Lewisburg and WRAK / WKSB Williamsport in the 1990s and forward.These Newsrooms are not staffed as they once were. Some are not staffed locally at all anymore. Where a radio news department may have had 4 people in the 1970s, now there may be one person covering news for many stations across the state, sending in brief news to each station.

While newspapers continue to do the best job of gathering and distributing news locally, in general, newspaper subscribership has been in a decline along with page counts.  For a great read about the newspaper industry, I recommend the book "The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Well Street Plundered Great American Newspapers", by James O'Shea, http://www.amazon.com/The-Deal-Hell-Plundered-Newspapers/dp/1586487914. 

Many local police departments have answered our requests to be added to their press distribution list, so we get updates about area fire and police calls that have happened. The details in the faxes and emails are sometimes pretty sparse.  We continue to work to get more details from more sources as time goes by.

So, many local areas have Internet news sites popping up. Millions of dollars have been invested and lost in some of them. See http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2014/01/17/aol-patch-may-be-dismantled-source/ for an interesting look at AOL’s effort, Patch.

As local radio and newspaper news coverage continues to evolve, the Internet changes the industry, too. How can newspapers give away news online at no cost? Why subscribe to the paper version anymore? How do advertisers change to digital online ads? Clearly we are in the midst of a significant media change.  

Somethings do not change. A healthy democracy requires a healthy media to help maintain an informed public. Studies show that the weaker the media coverage in an area, the more corruption that occurs over time. An informed public is essential to the wellness of a community. Accurate articles on drug busts send a message to dealers. Accurate coverage of government actions promote citizen feedback to leaders. Responsive traffic condition reporting can result in less traffic congestion. Fuller events lists can build community as we gather to eat, pray, buy, sell and be entertained together.

Equally important, there are limits. I will not blog live news when people are endangered by the posts being public. Public safety, including that of the Police and EMS must not be compromised for ratings or page views. May we be a community that cares about these things and each other.

I welcome your feedback on the live news blogging at http://www.facebook.com/NorthcentralPa  

NorthcentralPa.com Publisher,

Kathy Kolb

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