Montpelier, VT: Small town with a healthy ecology of mainstream and independent media outlets,gaps
Montpelier, the capitol of Vermont enjoys a local newspaper, The Time-Argus, as well as circulation of papers from nearby markets like Burlington, including The Burlington Free Press and "independent" circulars like Seven Days. The town also benefits from local community papers like the The Bridge. A few local affiliates of the major television networks, for example WCAX a CBS affiliate, have a presence in the market as well. All of these 'channels' - print and broadcast - maintain a conventional internet presence. On the internet, services like the Onion River Exchange provide local match-making for goods and services that serve local needs. Many of the major social networks such as Facebook drill only as far down as Burlington in segmenting the local population.
What is needed are resources to help connect the global and local. A good example is the local newspaper, the Times-Argus, which pull AP wire stories regularly to fill its broadsheets, but it simply doesn't have the resources to pay its staff writers to investigate on and report the local implications of many of these stories. A good example of the financial pressure these outlets face is their consideration of making syndicated content free, while charging for the local content. This makes sense on one level - wire stories can come from any source on the web - but has two flaws:
First, the important news that helps keep a community connected and bound together is now walled of by market forces, excluding many who would otherwise benefit from participation. Unlike the physical papers, online editions cannot be left for others to pick up and peruse, nor can this content be accessed any better through resources like libraries. Yet.
Second, this emerging model does little to incentivize better interpretation of larger national and international issues for local audiences. By directing attention to the local issues and needs, the gap between global policy, economics, environment and other issues widens rather than narrows.
In my opinion, what we need to develop are new tools and models that build upon the important of tools like Craiglist (participatory, freely available tools to connect people and resources) while providing using background on issues important to the well-being of communities.