Hyperlocal voices: Daniel Ionescu, The Lincolnite

hyperlocal voices - The Lincolnite

The latest in the Hyperlocal Voices series looks at new hyperlocal blog The Lincolnite, launched by recent Lincoln University graduates, who also managed to secure funding for their venture.

Who were the people behind The Lincolnite, and what were their backgrounds?

The people behind The Lincolnite are Daniel Ionescu (Managing Editor), Elizabeth Fish (Associate Editor), and Chris Brandrick (Senior Editor). Daniel and Elizabeth are journalism graduates from the University of Lincoln, while Chris is a Web Technology graduate from the same institution.

Besides our journalism and web technology training, all of us are also freelance writers for several publications, and have run the award-winning student newspaper at the University of Lincoln for two years.

We also have several contributors and freelancers on board.

What made you decide to set up The Lincolnite?

The idea was something I had at the back of my mind for a couple of years. I believe hyperlocal can be one of the strengths of small independent media outlets, and Lincoln was missing such a publication.

The small city (approx. 100,000 people) is served by county-wide media (one newspaper and two radio stations), yet no dedicated local news source existed. So The Lincolnite came to fill a gap in the market in the city — a news website dedicated to covering only Lincoln.

When did you set up the The Lincolnite and how did you go about it?

The site was set up in May 2010 using open-source and freely-available tools. The Lincolnite is powered by a self-hosted WordPress installation, with an in-house customised theme.

With the help of a grant from Enterprise@Lincoln we also rented office space in the city centre, where we are now based. Since then, we have been reporting daily, and now we clock at over 400 stories.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

We tried to steer clear of any particular influences in terms of image and content. Generally, we aim for a clear, easy to use interface, and to become the one-stop destination for the people of Lincoln.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

We are different to traditional news operations in several ways. We publish as we get stories ready, throughout the day, so there’s no batch of stories going up in the morning to sit there until the next day.

Because we are not forced to fill in a certain amount of space per day, our daily story count can vary from 3 to 8 stories per day, depending on events.

For many follow-up stories, we update the original story, rather than add a couple of new lines and then recap what happened.

The updated story usually gets republicised on our social media channels, or the time stamp gets updated, with clear indication of older developments. This way, no details get left out of the picture, and readers can easily follow the developments throughout the story.

However, in many ways our news gathering process is quite traditional. We use an editorial calendar of events, liaise with police, fire services, and local government, go to press calls, and investigate all sort of leads we get tipped on from readers. But because of our publishing medium, we are able to put stories out faster than most traditional media outlets.

What have been the key moments in the The Lincolnite’s development editorially?

One of the main views we took from the start is that in most cases the he said/she said style of reporting is not suitable for us, unless the story actually needs it.

We aim to compress all the essential information (such as council meetings), and keep things relevant, without putting too much spin on it. Our reporting is as objective as possible, and the lead writers do not write opinion pieces.

What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

Our traffic on average is 10,000 (unique) visitors every month for the past three months, which is over our initial expectations. The best thing is, that the numbers are steadily going even higher every month, as more and more people hear of us.

UPDATE (Nov 16): The site now has an iPhone app.

8 thoughts on “Hyperlocal voices: Daniel Ionescu, The Lincolnite

  1. The Worst of Perth

    “A woman was robbed of her purse on the High Street by a man with purple spots on his nose.”

    Heh. I can dig it.

    A question that may be interesting to the hyperlocal providers Daniel. Any legal support? How do you deal with that side, or is avoidance your main ploy? (As mine is)

    And, I’m interested in this, “Our reporting is as objective as possible, and the lead writers do not write opinion pieces.”
    Why no editorialising? Does this not feel a little impersonal, given that one of the strengths of the hyperlocal is it’s personal feel. What is objective in your view?

    I looked at your piece on rentals http://thelincolnite.co.uk/2010/10/city-house-market-full-of-reluctant-landlords/
    I felt (my humble opinion) was that it was crying out for the locals’ quotes about just what this means for the area. There’s not even a call for comments from locals. Sorry just my opinion of course, but these things are things struck me immediately on looking at your site.

    Keep up the good hyperlocal work.

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  4. Daniel Ionescu

    @The Worst of Perth, thanks for your feedback. I’m going to try and address some of your questions:

    — Media law support: yes, we have a media law adviser on board, who checks the copy retroactively, and is also consulted proactively on stories that could pose legal issues (e.g. certain police reports, courts, etc.) Also, McNae’s is our best friend in hard times.

    — Editorialising: we carried a reader survey a couple of weeks back, and our readers said they like the fact we try and keep it objective, as well as less sensational (besides the headlines, of course, when possible).

    The only place where sometimes we let see how we feel about certain stories is either in the excerpt (FP story brief), or looking at the answers formulated in some polls. At the same time, we are looking into expanding our comment section, with several new writers.

    — Call for comments: All stories have comment entry fields below them, so we do not feel there is a certain need to call out of comments in the copy of the story. We trialled this on a few bigger stories, but the impact was minimal, while other stories, without a call for comments, ranked in quite a few. Polls seem to be more effective in this regard.

  5. The Worst of Perth

    Cool. The worry I would have in a local blog concentrating heavily on bare facts, is that a bigger orgnisation, if it did see some some potential ad revenue from an audience you may have worked hard to build up, can aggregate facts more easily than a local blog usually can, and could move in. That’s why I was asking about the community of commenters. The comment nurturing and moderation (like twitter) is another extremely underappreciated art, and if say a small medium paper decided to take over the local scene, it would find it much harder to move against a big, established, frequently commenting community than the bare facts stories. Anyway, yours is not a part of the world I’m familiar with, but if I wanted to do that here, I would be concentrating the majority of my efforts on building a big committed and involved (commenting) community and the highest quality/relevant hyperlocal editorialising.

    Just some more thoughts from the other side of the world.

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