The Financial Times’ Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s report from Bowling Green, Kentucky on why Americans do not trust news from mainstream journalists signals why law blogs published by local lawyers will be more trusted than other online legal information.
According to Gallup, America’s trust in mass media peaked at 72 per cent in 1976, the year All the President’s Men hit cinemas. By last year, that figure had plunged to 32 per cent…
Sam Ford, an MIT research affiliate who grew up in Bowling Green, tells Edgecliffe-Johnson that “most journalists are from elsewhere.”
As Craigslist and Walmart hollowed out local business models, America’s remaining journalism jobs become concentrated in cosmopolitan, economically successful and liberal coastal cities. If you only meet a reporter when they parachute in from Washington or New York to cover an election, natural disaster…, “that changes the relationship a community has to journalism” Ford says.
Local news in Bowling Green means Joe Imel, the director of media operations at the Bowling Green Daily News. Imel runs the presses of the 163 year-old paper “with a police scanner in hand and a pillar-of-the-community appetite for school board meetings and little league results.”
“You guys cover the flash and trash. We’re the ones sitting down covering the day in and day out things,” Imel tells Edgecliffe-Johnson, “If we were to go away, you’d never know they’d raised your taxes.”
James Neal, the owner of a small Bowling Green grocery and filling station, hits the nail on the head on where many Americans turn for news. He told Edgecliffe-Johnson he “prefers to get his news from his patrons than than the journalists…”
The Internet democratized news publishing. Whether it be a blog, website or social network, we begun to our get news from each other. News truly became what someone told us.
The value and validity we placed in this news is determined by how much we trust the messenger, the publisher. Common sense dictates that many Americans would trust “locals” more than others.
Blogs have democratized reporting and commentary for local lawyers. Lawyers have the ability to share helpful and practical legal information on general or niche subjects for the people in their town or municipality. The algorithms running Google and other social networks see to it that locals get the local lawyer’s blog commentary.
Unfortunately, lawyers have not seized this opportunity to share legal information with locals. Websites, often filled with canned content written by others thousands of miles away don’t engage locals. People don’t trust them.
The void is filled by large organizations publishing legal information online. Whether Avvo, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, the ABA or state bar associations, the people penning this online legal information and commentary have never lived in the towns they are looking to reach.
The legal information and commentary, though somewhat relevant, has no local flair or anecdotes. No “reporter” who’s walked the streets of the town, talked with locals in coffee shops and pubs, coached youth sports or handled matters before local judges.
Law blog posts from a local lawyer who can relate, who sends her kids to the same schools and gets involved in the same local political debates will naturally be more trusted than information from those who “parachute” in via the Internet to share legal information for their own gain.
The majority of Americans do not trust lawyers nor our justice system. We’re right with journalists, with about 33 percent of people trusting us.
But a survey found the majority of Americans would likely hire a lawyer they see using some form of social media. The reason is trust. We trust those “individuals” we see publishing online, especially locals.
Law blogs published by local lawyers represent an opportunity for lawyers to share trusted legal information. Those lawyers who do so will be more trusted, will be serving their town and will be hired.