Argus survey highlights readers' desire for in-depth and investigative reporting

Affordable housing, government transparency, and economic development flagged as issues of concern.

Argus survey highlights readers' desire for in-depth and investigative reporting

Hello everyone,

Many thanks to those who filled out the 2023 Argus end-of-year survey. Your answers were enormously helpful, and the many free-form comments and suggestions were thoughtful and constructive. The feedback was invaluable for evaluating the work so far and guiding plans for 2024 and beyond.

Fifty-one people completed the survey: Seventy-eight percent are full-time residents of the Berkshires region, fourteen percent are part-timers, and the rest are occasional visitors.

Most notably, only fourteen percent of respondents felt that media in our region do enough in-depth reporting to hold elected officials accountable. As the survey form highlighted (see below), nationally that figure is about one-third; in our unscientific local sample, the number here is somewhat lower.

More than ninety percent of survey respondents said they’d like “in-depth and investigative reporting” as a top priority in 2024, by far the top choice.

Next was “news analysis and commentary” and “profiles of newsmakers and interesting people” in the region.

And about a third noted both “long-form storytelling” and “podcast interviews/audio reporting” as features they’d like to continue to see in The Argus.

Affordable and workforce housing top issues

The top local issues identified in the survey were housing, government transparency, economic development, climate/environment, and K-12 education.

Survey respondents made specific suggestions for stories and lines of inquiry to better capture the full diversity of people in our region; help understand what drives divisions in our communities and where there’s common ground, and highlight the people, ideas, and policies that are making a difference.

That readers want more in-depth local reporting speaks to the moment: More than two thousand newspapers and local-media outlets have folded in recent decades, victims of changing business models and competition for advertising in the Internet and social-media age, consolidation and cost-cutting fueled by private-equity investors, and a shift to less-expensive-to-produce—and more advertiser-friendly—information products.

With much smaller staffs, surviving media outlets often don’t have the resources to allow reporters to spend weeks or months digging through documents, interviewing dozens of people, and delivering the in-depth stories essential for our communities.

So that will continue to be the focus of The Argus: Supplementing the work done by other media in our region by taking on reporting projects that require a substantial commitment of time and resources to fully investigate and write.

More to come!

Bill Shein, Editor

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