Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution writes what we’re all realizing, local journalism is in crisis.

”Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years. Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation.“

Newspapers don’t have the revenue to sustain themselves.

“The traditional business model that once supported local newspapers–relying on print subscribers and advertising to generate revenue–has become difficult to sustain as the audience for local news continues to shrink and advertising dollars disappear.”

And the reason is obvious. People do not consume or receive the news the way they used to.

”Few Americans today hold print subscriptions, and newspapers have struggled to amass digital subscribers. Meanwhile, news consumers have become less inclined to follow local sources of news, instead preferring to read, listen, and watch content from outlets focused on national news coverage. And, as the digital age has facilitated the emergence of a greater number of national news sources and highly specialized outlets, the reach of local news has diminished.”

At the same time the cost to become a citizen journalist and report news has never been lower. Publishing a blog and reporting on uncovered niches brings an instant audience.

Unlike newspapers, citizen journalists don’t need paid subscriptions to “make money” from blogging. The source of a blogger’s revenue needn’t be advertising either.

Lawyers make money as a result of their blogging – not from their blogging. Lawyers who blog on niche and engage influencers in the process build a strong word of mouth reputation and relationships. Clients, work and revenue follow – in amounts far greater than a niche publisher would earn from subscriptions or advertising.

Law firm published blogs covering local affairs would be widely read by a local community. Share the posts on Facebook and Twitter to extend the reach.

How so?

The blog’s coverage could be directly related to the work of a law firm, but need not.

Law blogs already cover probate litigation decisions in Florida, Chancery Court decisions in Delaware and IP cases in the Northern District of Illinois. The readers of these blogs as well as the lawyers publishing the blogs have benefited tremendously.

At the local level, maybe there’s the opportunity to cover certain types of administrative bodies, particularly matters before a court or municipal/county meetings. Could be a committee or a board.

The matters being covered may have little, if anything, to do with the type of work done by the firm. The goodwill and reputation earned in the process would be substantial.

A law firm needn’t cover everything and needn’t send over a lawyer to do the coverage. A journalism student intern or two from a local university would welcome the opportunity to report on governmental affairs of importance to the local electorate. The firm can oversee the reporting from an an editorial process.

Fifteen dollars an hour for twenty hours a week is just North of a thousand dollars a month. A publication titled in accord with what’s being covered branded as published by your law firm with interior pages about your firm’s dedication to the community and the legal services you offer is worth all of that.

Not very matter need be covered. Cover what you can, you’re doing more than others – and much more than the other law firms with no imagination. If you’d like to, cherry pick the matters based on what looks interesting.

Finally, much of what is done in courts and administrative bodies is reduced to a written or digital record. Report from there, without attending. It’s obviously what blogging lawyers commentating on cases do.

May sound crazy, but I have always thought publishing the police blotter in a small town would provide great exposure for a law firm.

Maybe a police blotter doesn’t feel right, but give some thought to picking up the growing void in municipal, county and court news coverage. After all, lawyers do – and should – play a role in educating the citizenry of the law and its role in society.