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Too Local at the ProJo?

It is, perhaps, the chief survival strategy for a newspaper industry on the brink: go local.

With national and international news just a click away, newspapers around the country are focusing heavily on local news in a bid to stay viable - www.nytimes.com won't cover your City Council meeting, after all. So there was some concern in the ProJo newsroom when the paper closed four bureaus - and discontinued four local sections of the newspaper - as part of its fall cutbacks.

How local would the new ProJo go? What kind of coverage would it give to municipal politics? Would there be new focus on thematics and less on the nitty-gritty of City Hall?

Well, seven months later, it seems that the ProJo cannot quite give up its uber-local approach.

There have been a few thematic pieces for sure, but at least as many local budget stories getting big play - front-page tales of a Barrington battle over school finances and a fiscal meltdown in North Providence. And today, on the front of the Rhode Island section, stories on Providence's pension overhaul and budget strife in Warwick.

Are these the sort of stories a statewide audience cares about? Probably not. But for a paper that has chopped its bureaus, perhaps a swipe at the hyper-local, from time to time, is the only way to hold onto a certain sort of reader. But will a swipe be enough?

Is the ProJo, in the pursuit of the local budget story, sacrificing an opportunity to engage in a different sort of journalism - a local journalism with a broader view? Would readers necessarily prefer that sort of writing?

We still don't know. But with the newspaper industry in dire shape, the ProJo doesn't have much time to figure it out. Look for a more expansive take on this issue down the line in the Phoenix.

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