The Treasury press office asked me to put them in touch with a few hyperlocal web sites – this arose as part of their regional media plan for the budget.
My favourite was Ally Tibbit in GreenerLeith who put the diagrams and a link to the info up and then trawled the murky depths of the local Twitterati for a visceral reaction…
Mike over at pitsnpots did a straight treatment of the material and the CX budget speech, with a traditionally robust discussion in the comments.
Philip John didn’t i think run the material on his Lichfield Blog (illness in the team) but instead posted it on his Journal Local site for anyone to use. This helpfully opens up the tendency of press offices to create favours by giving rapid instant access to material (to be fair in this case tho HMT did put all the stuff on their website, which promptly stalled).
In Kings Cross i didn’t run the HMT regional material. It was too one sided by omission – talking about roughly positive things for London but not mentioning what impact the vat increase and DLA changes might have. In general I don’t do national politics on the site and in Kings Cross with lots of people in social housing and one of the poorest SOAs in the country this was too skewed for me to post happily.
Nicky in Digbeth didn’t run it either – not all local sites do traditional news.
I didn’t put Richard in touch with HMT but he didn’t need it as Saddleworth News got a v good angle – spotting the change in tax treatment for holiday homes owners so rang around local b&bs. It is possible that he generated the only positive budget coverage outside the Murdoch press and Cider Trade publications.
Overall it was good to see HMT have a go at reaching out – this has to be applauded. I hope other government departments will try. But the content really need to be more granular than the (obscure to non government types) adminsitrative regions. The real appeal of hyperlocal sites is in the name.
The Government News Network offers RSS feeds for the (obstruse) regions. Looking at this one for London you can see from the careful insertion of place names in the first lines of the press notices that it would presumably be easy to geo tag these much more locally (a la FixMy Street). That would be a good start, allowing me to subscribe to news within a given radius of my site. It would also remove the bureacratic obsession with adminstrative units (Kings Cross for instance isn’t an adminsitrative place that has any sense on the ground) and allow people to define a more human geography.
Greater story customisation to a local area would make information more useful. Some might say that it’s tricky to customise genuinely national stories right down to the excruciatingly local lens of hyperlocal sites. But I’m not sure that it is, especially with the budget. The vast amount of data and computing power at HMT’s disposal they ought to be capable of producing much more local lenses on budget changes than adminsitrative regions. The broadcasters all manage to create simple calculators – HMT should copy the carbon calculator and produce something others can use and embed. It can be done, like this handy tool from ONS.
There’s a big society angle here too – to be a well informed empowered local citizen i need to know what is going on in my neighbourhood. Very granualar data and information from government can be really powerful in making a case for local change like those deprivation statistics. To paraphrase McKinsey – if it can’t be measured you can’t campaign on it.
If I have missed anything good please add a link in the comments.
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