Quite a few hyperlocal sites got started to fill a gap left by the papers, radio, TV and trad. journalists. Some hyperlocal people have strong views about what they perceive as a failure of journalism and a need to step into a gap.
Things have gone full circle: some hyperlocal sites are doing so well that I am now getting queries about how journalists can ‘help’ hyperlocal sites from folk who are journalists or manage papers.
This will cause much spluttering and indignation from people who set up hyperlocal sites due to what they perceive as a failure of journalism locally. As someone who was personally monstered by a tabloid I empathise. But if i have got over it, you can so bear with me. Look at Lichfield to see what a journalist can do when they get to creating a hyperlocal site.
So if you run or contribute to a hyperlocal website, forum etc imagine waking up one day to find a nice shiny shrink-wrapped journalist on your doorstep with passable modern media skills and all the classic attributes a journalist should have (I said ‘imagine’ not all journalists are NOWesque in the same way not all hyperlocal bloggers are foaming mad Sid Nutters). And imagine that journalist is yours for say a day a week or can work with a herd of local blogs over the week. What would you do with them?
Here’s my starter for ten on what i would do with a free journalist in say Kings Cross:
add capacity – we have a great volunteer team but we are mostly busy in the day time. There are loads of things i would like followed up with some persistent phone wrangling during office hours.
bit more bite – there are quite few issues in a rough area I am loath to follow up for fear of upsetting neighbours (one of my volunteer contributors had 14 windows broken in a planning dispute by someone with an air rifle). Would be nice to have someone at arms length to tackle more difficult stuff.
court and crime reporting – in general any specialist reporting where contempt and special rules apply.
town hall stuff – there is so much guff coming out of the town hall it is hard to keep up. Volunteers just can’t go to all the meetings we have a life to lead. PitsnPots in Stoke-On-Trent demonstrates that you can have a whole site just devoted to the council. This isn’t just a capacity issue there are lots of special skills required here that I kind of assume a well trained journo will have or could bring from their parent – keeping track of big property developments, understanding the budget, declarations of interest, expenses, procurement etc
skills transfer – i can write ok but no one has ever shown me any basic tips for writing to get attention without being sensationalist and the basics of libel etc
build links – if the bins are being emptied badly in Midford as well as Little Snoring at the other end of the county is there a bigger picture from sticking the blogs together? And in general just network things together a bit.
broker relationships to syndicate local content – i like it when the paper reuses my stuff, as long as they ask, which they do. I publish it so that people can read it. But it is childish that they don’t give me a link. I don’t kid myself that they make any money from my stuff so i don’t expect to be paid. Might be nice though if the local rag makes a donation to a local charity say for young people every time they lift a piece.
What would you do? Moderation is on.
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