Localizing the big stories

If you’ve ever read a national piece and thought “That’s really great. I wish I could do work like that,” then you’re already one step closer. And the work you can do at your local or regional level is actually far more impactful to your readership.

Consider this USA Today story: Defense budget cuts hit businesses, localities:

America is entering another round of deep defense cuts. As Washington debates “sequestration” — automatic budget cuts that threaten to slash $600 billion from the Pentagon budget by 2023, beginning March 1 — the defense industry, and cities that depend on it, know sequestration isn’t even half the problem.

Add in another $487 billion, 10-year defense cut in 2011’s debt-ceiling legislation. The end of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean the separate budget for that, once $160 billion annually, now $88.5 billion, will wind down, too. Altogether, a budget that peaked at $716.3 billion in 2012 has dropped to a requested $701.8 billion this year and is set to hit $589 billion by 2014.

It could go much lower with sequestration, although still well above the $294 billion spent in 2000. That’s about $392 billion in today’s dollars.


Sequestration and the 2011 cuts could kill 1 million jobs, not counting spinoff effects, says George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller. Half of the cuts are likely to hit about 15 states from Virginia to Texas, Moody’s Analytics economist Chris Lafakis said.

Those are big numbers. Any number in the millions or billions is usually too large for us an audience to visualize or relate to. But break them down.

Did you know there are five major military installations in Alabama? That’s a lot of budget, a lot of jobs, a lot of families’ lives. That’s also a lot of secondary employment — grocery stores, movie theaters, schools, you name it — to think about. If significant cuts hit the places listed there, that changes family history, holiday plans and cities forever.

Go out and talk to those people about what things like widespread cuts like sequestration can mean to them. That’s localizing the story. And remember to ask yourself: How can I make this a multimedia story?


One thought on “Localizing the big stories

  1. Pingback: The critical use of the word ‘Just’ « Kenny Smith | A few words …

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