Yessi Bello continues the Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews, talking to the Edinburgh Reporter‘s Phyllis Stephen.
Who were the people behind the blog, and what where their backgrounds?
I am the person behind it. I had just graduated with a Masters in Journalism and needed to find an outlet for my work based here in Edinburgh. It seemed to me – particularly after attending the News Re:Wired conference in January 2010 – that hyperlocal is the new buzzword and that I could do it right here on my own doorstep.
I had loads of new multimedia skills desperately needing to be used and practiced. Prior to that I had been a solicitor for a number of years but took a career swerve in 2008 when I decided to go back to university. Same skills – different result!
When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
I first set the blog up with WordPress in February 2010. It was hacked and then I started using Rapidweaver (Mac software). It took a while to realise that this was not the best platform (It was very cumbersome to add in articles and even Google Ads was nightmare).
I relaunched The Edinburgh Reporter properly with some professional technical help at the end of July 2010. We also have sites placed in Aberdeen, Dublin, Glasgow and London which we will grow given time.
What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
I had read or visited a number of blogs, particularly The Lichfield Blog which always seems to be held up as the guru of hyperlocal in the UK. I really like SE1 and also Will Perrin’s King’s Cross blog.
The one which influenced me a lot, and I even got the book on it – was The Huffington Post. I don’t see why we can’t have something like that here – and I see no real barriers to our site becoming more like that given time and lots and lots of connections.
How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
We cannot cover every story like a newspaper with a lot of staff. It is impossible. But I see us plugging a gap for local people to have access to news about Edinburgh in one place.
I think it is useful for Edinburgh residents to have one site to get news about their own city – even if that news is also elsewhere on the internet or in the newspapers. People have jobs and their own lives. They do not have all day to trawl the internet looking for stories about Edinburgh and that is where we come in. We do not see ourselves as competing with traditional news – we hope that we complement it.
But I do take the practice of journalism very seriously, and we try to get original quotes when we can. One of our best and most popular stories of recent days was the day I was out early taking photographs of a house which had caught fire in the early morning. I had the photos up before any newspaper site. Even the BBC just had one line by the time my article with quotes from firefighters and householders was published online.
It is simply easier on occasions to use press releases, particularly if time is pressing. It is the best way to get a wide spread of news out to our readers, and I have no real problem in using press releases to help do that, but I always edit them thoroughly before publishing.
We are very different from traditional news outlets in that our possibilities of using multimedia to tell the story are endless. Video, photographs and audio all add colour to the story itself.
What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?
Our traffic is increasing all the time in a straight line and this month, a mere six months into our new entity, we are approaching 10,000 visitors and more than twice that number of pageviews. We think that is rather good in the time allowed but we have no real way of knowing! Our Twitter presence is also effective and we have just under 1300 followers at today’s date.
What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
I think the use of WordPress is now a monumental factor. We have several contributors who can log in remotely and thus my role as editor is developing naturally. Our articles will cover a wider spread with more contributors.
But I resist the temptation of calling us a blog. We aim to be a true hyperlocal website with static pages of information as well as news stories: one of our key pages and one which we work on continually is the Free Wifi page.
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