I dream of a day we will have at least three 24-hour commercial news networks dedicated to delivering Pittsburgh regional news.
Enough so that at least one network can be blatantly biased, while the other two can remain only moderately or subtly biased in some way. You know, so we get all the relevant perspectives. Enough so that they're competing with each other like bull stags to beat each other to the punch, out-entertain the actual entertainment channels, and fill their infinite news holes.
Okay, that one might be unrealistic.
Let's say I dream of the day we will have at least one daily half-hour's worth of television programming dedicated to local news, somewhere on the dial.
Not what we have now -- not crime, weather, sports and pap. I dream of a program where unless there is a devastating tragedy on the order of Stanton Heights, an historic blizzard or an actual championship, then the first story by default will always concern City Hall. And the second story by default will always concern City Hall. And if there isn't enough breaking news from City Hall (or which will summon the attentions of City Hall) reporters will go out and manufacture pseudo-stories by pulling controversial quotes somewhat out of context, or pull key statistics that make something sound like an emergency.
And if there still isn't enough news to fill that measly one half-hour, I want news analysts and competing pundits brought in to talk about how we ought to be thinking about what was just discussed during the first 15 minutes.
I dream of news anchors that stare us down with troubled intensity and use their everything-is-dire television news voice all the time -- even when talking about a humdrum meeting of the Parking Authority, or a possible future run by a longshot candidate for County Council. I dream of digital graphics and sound effects for everything, and of most of all I dream of producers who daily threaten to fire their reporters if they don't hunt down and sensationalize the local news well enough -- or they will bring in somebody who can.*
Moreover, I want a half-hour news magazine hosted by somebody who's totally in-the-tank for Luke Ravenstahl. Somebody I can really enjoy hating, because that at least would be something. Then some of the other news outlets can criticize the overbearing influence of that person, and maybe he or she will say something over the line or embarrassing, or maybe even wind up in a scandal involving prescription pain medication or sexual harassment. Yeah.
Because I'm sick and tired of hearing that "Pittsburgh voters aren't engaged in this election", and that election and every other election. That this issue is too inside baseball and that issue is too inside baseball, and every issue is too inside baseball and nobody cares about anything.
If you desire people to pay attention, somebody has to grab them by the lapels and make them pay attention. Somebody has to work hard day in and day out to build an audience that does not exist yet but can so very easily exist because we see these audiences elsewhere, and inform them of important matters with all the bells and alarms and activity with which we are accustomed to receiving our important information.
You may not love everything about the national media, and you may not love everything about the tone of the national debate. But take a look around, and you'll notice that everybody is a heck of a lot better informed and more engaged with national issues than you'll find them with local issues. And it's no accident. We made them that way. We can do it with local news.
Nothing is wrong with people in Pittsburgh. The media is simply sound asleep to some huge opportunities -- and given the right patience, the right commitment, the right vision and the right moxie, there's a lot of money to be made.
*-The same mentality should already be operating for print media, obviously. It just might do the trick.