Can journalism be delivered live on stage? Of course it can. Jon Stewart has done it for years. Colbert, Oliver, Wilmore, Maher all do it in one form or another. The premise of each man’s show is commentary on recent news delivered to a live audience. And each of them leavens the hard stuff with groaners, the dumber the better.
We know the concept works on a national level. So the question arises: Couldn’t local news ALSO be delivered live on stage with jokes?
Enter the community talk show. The Internet will point you to several. I recently attended the taping of one, in Vancouver, Wash., called “Hello Vancouver!” It bills itself as
“A brand new, live talk show that looks at life as we live it here in Vancouver, Washington!”
The show is produced by Temple Lentz, Jim Mains and Noland Hoshino of Vancouver-based High Five Media. Mains also co-hosts “The Vancouver Side,” a video blog covering people, events and businesses in Southwest Washington.
The humor was corny and fuzzy enough to make even Jay Leno blush. Vancouver’s mayor lost a karaoke contest to the mayor of Prescott, who happens to have a mellow, sweet voice for country blues. The female host was threatened with a birthday spanking. The Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver was full with people there to applaud their friends and neighbors. I was neither, and I felt a little left out.
And yet … there was also news.
Every episode of “Hello Vancouver” includes “Community Conversations”:
“Every episode, we’ll talk about a community issue that’s flying under the radar and could use a little more attention. What’s really going on? Who is involved and what are they doing? What do we, as community members, need to know?”
Hey … that’s what daily newspapers used to do before their staffs were gutted.
This time, two representatives from Friends of the Elder Justice Center discussed issues tackled by the watchdog agency, including elder abuse and ageism. Vancouver, it turns out, boasts the oldest elder justice center in the state of Washington.
Two news talk hosts from XRAY-FM promoted their own journalistic endeavors and revealed the Portland radio station’s plans to secure a transmitter that would cover the Vancouver area.
And there was oral history. For each show, the team produces a “Hello History” video interview with historian Pat Jollota. This time they explored the Heights neighborhood, covering everything from street names to racial integration.
As daily newspapers decline, opportunities for finding out what’s happening in an average-sized American town shrink with them. It’s not just quality that declines, it’s quantity, and often, stuff like local history and nonprofit news is the first to go. Maybe local newspapers could diversify by hosting meetings like this themselves.
In fact, maybe the next big trend in journalism isn’t digital, but physical: Journalists bringing people to a physical space to learn about and work on issues important to their community. No less a player than The Guardian appears to already have this in mind.