Tag Archives: local news

Hyperlocal Voices: Jack Davies, Tongwynlais

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We’re back to Wales for the latest interview in our Hyperlocal Voices series; as Jack Davies tells Damian Radcliffe about the community website for Tongwynlais in Cardiff. Launched in Summer 2012, the site covers a village in the north of the Welsh capital.

1. Who were the people behind the blog?

I created and continue to run the site entirely on my own. I’ve considered recruiting new contributors but at the moment I have the time and energy to do it myself.

2. What made you decide to set up the blog?

I moved to the village three years ago and felt it wasn’t being adequately promoted as a place to live and to visit.

Many people don’t realise we are in Cardiff. Continue reading

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Hyperlocal Voices: Geraldine Durrant, East Grinstead Online

For the latest in our series of Hyperlocal Voices Damian Radcliffe heads back home to Sussex. Geraldine Durrant,  Editor of East Grinstead Online, explains how the site – ‘an idea whose time had come’ – serves the popular market town.

Launched just four months ago, East Grinstead Online is already generating substantial traffic, and publishes multiple stories every day. Here’s their story…

East Grinstead Online 

1.  Who were the people behind the blog?

I have been a journalist all my working life, and many years ago was news editor of the local paid-for paper.

I moved on as Group Feature Writer for the Croydon Advertiser group and subsequently set up a freelance agency with a photographer colleague which supplied features to newspapers and magazines around the world.

I am mainly retired, although I still do the PR for East Grinstead Town Council and write regularly for the Catholic press.

And I am the somewhat accidental author of four children’s books, the first three of which have been adapted for a stage production which has been touring  the UK this year. Continue reading

FAQ: How can news organisations compete at a hyperlocal level? (and other questions from AOP)

These questions were submitted to me in advance of the next AOP meeting, on ‘Microlocal Media’, and have been published on the AOP site. As usual, I’m republishing here as part of my FAQ series.

Q. How can publishers compete with zero-cost base community developed and run sites?

They can’t – and they shouldn’t. When it comes to the web, the value lies in the network, not in the content. Look at the biggest web success story: Google. Google’s value – contrary to the opinion of AP or Rupert Murdoch or the PCC – is not in its content. It is in its connections; its links; its network. You don’t go to Google to read; you go there to find. The same is true of so many things on the internet. One of the problems for publishers is that people use the web as a communications channel first, as a tool second, and as a destination after that. The successful operations understand the other two uses and work on those by forging partnerships, and linking, linking, linking. Continue reading

Gatewatching for local news

Among the many good things about Internet news consumption is the fact that audiences can seek any sort of information to suit their interests and inclinations. No longer stifled by editorial, corporate or advertiser monopoly, readers browse everything from obscure blogs to mainstream news sites to get the information they want.

Ever since Internet media started going mainstream, however, many have raised the question of whether this vast and tolerant space is causing people to replace news that informs and educates with that which merely entertains. One has only to look at the slew of sensational Internet videos that go viral, or the latest online reiteration of Jessica Simpson’s gaffe to accept that this is a legitimate concern. In addition, people have more options than ever before to confine themselves to fragmented communities and echo chambers to get the news they want in lieu of what they need.

As Charlie Beckett points out in Supermedia, while the diversity provided by the Internet with regard to information dissemination is important, it also tends to further the divide between those looking for real, relevant information and those who merely want instant gratification through the latest celebrity gossip.

Of course, blaming new media for its endless possibilities would be sort of like blaming that decadent chocolate cake for existing. Just because it is there, doesn’t mean you need to seek it.

This has been a more major concern with regard to local news. Citizens might tend to focus on the latest iPhone application released by Apple at the expense of important news happening at home – information that would be vital to them as contributors to a democracy.

But while lack of reader interest is a problem, it is often spurred on by scarcity of engaging content from news organizations – if all a local paper can provide is a string of wire service accounts and press releases, how do they expect to keep readers motivated? This was hard enough to accept in an age where the newspaper or the evening news broadcast was the only source of information. It is simply untenable in the Web 2.0 world, where readers can get actual, eyewitness accounts from their Twitter followers and view firsthand pictures through Flickr groups. In other words, in this age of social media and online networks, local journalists seem almost out of touch with the community they live in.

The question then is, can residents of a community do well as their own gatewatchers?

The New York-based site NYC.is, which functions as a “Digg” for the city and its surrounding areas is trying to do just that. “Our goal is to connect bloggers, independent reporters and activists in different parts of the five boroughs, rewarding the best work by sending it traffic and increasing potential for impact,” reads the mission statement.

I got a chance to talk to Susannah Vila, a graduate student at Columbia University, who launched the site. “The inspiration behind the concept is [it provides] ways of democratizing the Web.  This was part of what excited me about making the site,” she says.

Readers themselves direct attention to local news that they deem important, while also channeling traffic to independent bloggers, regional Web sites and mainstream sites. Anything from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s job approval ratings to rising prices of a pizza slice in Brooklyn can turn up on the front page.  “The point is, it is not just one type of story that gets popular. There is a lot of range,” says Vila. The common thread is relevance to people of the community. In true Digg fashion, the top contributors get a mention on the home page, as do the most popular stories.

Can this go one step further, and actually motivate people to do original reporting or garner data for a new story? “Once I get more of a community on the site with more engaged readers there is definitely a possibility to prompt them to investigate certain things or to [urge them] to go to community board meetings,” Vila says. ““It would also be cool to let people vote on ideas for stories.”

A gatewatching site at a local community level may not be sufficient to provide all the information residents need, but it certainly allows a comprehensive look at what readers are looking for, and what is important to them as residents, and as citizens: it can sometimes be an aspiring young band, or the New York Mets’ dismal season, but more often than not, it is about hard issues, such as the annual decline in household incomes, grassroots candidates for City Council, and governmental oversight of local schools.