National media should take this 2020 pledge: Cite your local sources

March 15, 2019 9:23 am

A screenshot from Frank Scavo’s Facebook page.

The New York Times recently made a visit to Old Forge in northeastern Pennsylvania to talk to failed state House candidate Frank Scavo and his supporters.

Scavo’s race garnered national attention after the Scranton Times-Tribune and Capital-Star (that’s us) dug through his social media accounts and found numerous anti-Muslim statements as well as a post that referenced the unfounded Pizzagate/Clinton sex ring conspiracy theory.

The Times story also folds in the controversy surrounding Old Forge Mayor Robert Legg, who threatened public officials in a Facebook post. The Capital-Star broke that story thanks to a reader tip.

In its story, the Times had at least two opportunities to properly credit the local news outlets that made its piece possible.

The first:

Many of Mr. Scavo’s supporters were upset that he had drawn significant negative attention for his series of bigoted Facebook posts over the past four year…

And the second:

The community’s mayor, Robert Legg, is currently embroiled in scandal after he posted on Facebook that the New York governor, Andrew M. Cuomo; the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi; and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, are treasonous and “should be shot.”

The first link leads to a deep dive on the race by the Intercept, a national online outlet. The second goes to a TV news story on Legg by WNEP in Scranton–Wilkes-Barre that cited the Capital-Star. (Thank you, WNEP.)

This is not commentary on parachute journalism or a bitter rebuke against reporters from out-of-state infringing on our turf. (The Times piece is well worth the read.)

Instead, this is a simple plea to reporters who will make many trips to the Keystone State to report on the lead-up to the 2020 election: Please cite your local sources by name.

Recently, an Associated Press story that neatly summarized the local news crisis for many communities across America made the rounds on Twitter. I saw many national reporters share the piece, lamenting the sorry state of small town papers.

One of the best things these reporters can do for us? Cite us. By name. With links.

Yes, adding a reference to an outside outlet in a feature story is not as elegant as simply dropping in a link.

But local news is facing a dilemma much bigger than that. We’re facing falling ad revenue and private equity and bad owners and too many other factors to list.

Be a friend to local media, national reporters. It may seem simple to you, but to a scrappy startup like us it could make all the difference.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.