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Beacon blog: In a global village, what constitutes local news?

At the Beacon, we cover news that matters to people in the St. Louis region. But people are interested in more than what happens here. What happens in Iraq, for example, hits home whether we like it or not.

That's why the Beacon paid attention to the formal end of the U.S. combat role. As always, we tried to provide coverage that is distinctive and meaningful. In advance of President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night, Beacon staff member Linda Lockhart asked St. Louisans to reflect on U.S. involvement in Iraq, and political reporter Jo Mannies talked to veterans. For the speech itself, we linked to national coverage we found perceptive.

Another local/national matter -- the proposed Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City -- was the focus of a recent story by Beacon reporter Dale Singer. St. Louisans had thoughtful comments about why this geographically distant matter had become an issue in Missouri's Senate race and a hot topic of conversation. Former Sen. Jack Danforth, an experienced international negotiator, even offered to help mediate the dispute.

I would call this story local because it was based on local sources. But someone else told me she considered it a national story because of the nature of the topic. She found it the most interesting story on the homepage at that time -- more proof that what interests St. Louis readers may originate far from home.

Rather than worry about whether a story should be categorized as local, national or international, I'm more interested in whether people here care about the topic and whether the Beacon can contribute something perceptive to the reporting and discussion. Sure, it's important to cover what happens here. But in a digitally connected world, geography alone is no longer sufficient for making decisions about news coverage.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Margaret Wolf Freivogel is the editor of St. Louis Public Radio. She was the founding editor of the St. Louis Beacon, a nonprofit news organization, from 2008 to 2013. A St. Louis native, Margie previously worked for 34 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a reporter, Washington correspondent and assistant managing editor. She has received numerous awards for reporting as well as a lifetime achievement award from the St. Louis Press Club and the Missouri Medal of Honor from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is a past board member of the Investigative News Network and a past president of Journalism and Women Symposium. Margie graduated from Kirkwood High School and Stanford University. She is married to William H. Freivogel. They have four grown children and seven grandchildren. Margie enjoys rowing and is a fan of chamber music.

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