If anyone has been following the growing trends of news gathering in a town with vanishing newspapers, it's Tammy La Gorce. After reading her article from New Jersey Monthly, 'How News is the Future of Reporting in New Jersey', it made me want to click on a new window tab on my browser and google to see if my city had it's own hyperlocal web site.
'Hyperlocal' web sites have been popping up in cities across the U.S for a few years now; The New York Times' latest report on the trend was April of this year, and Gorce's article researched the site going back as far as 1997, from a community city web site in Maplewood, NJ.
A combination of facebook, youtube and twitter, in Gorce's article, hyperlocal is all about people becoming their own reporters. For instance, while journalists might have to go out and write a review about a new coffee shop--interviewing customers, employees, tasting the food, etc--a resident who might happen to be sipping their favorite cup of Joe in that same coffee shop could already be blogging about his or her experience, while at the same time suggesting a good place to get books down the street.
"With fewer reporters covering stories and fewer pages to print them on, the internet is increasingly becoming an important avenue for all kinds of 'hyperlocal' reporting, from council-meeting recaps to alerts about what's fresh at the farmer's market."
An article on this same topic on Read Write Web: 'The Rise of Hyperlocal information' by Alex Iskold, Iskold also touches on the benefit that advertising companies have catering to locals through information provided by a hyperlocal site. Iskold did have some things that Gorce didn't have, like examples of postings (videos, blogs, comments) by hyperlocal sites, but Gorce did have plenty of descriptions to make up for this.
Something I also found interesting within the first few paragraphs of Iskold and Gorce's article, were not only the frenzied need for news these days, but more importantly, where the money is or could be in a hyperlocal site. Gorce illustrates the competitive and financial needs of news through her study of four hyperlocal sites in Maplewood, NJ.
"Thus sprang the war--though no one wants to call it that-- over who can most successfully spin a business out of covering Maplewood online."
Also, Gorce keeps the coverage balanced, not bashing on journalists or bloggers, by showing the reader how many of the founders for hyperlocal sites in Maplewood are journalists (the NYtimes article 'Hyperlocal' Web Sites Deliver News without Newspapers' by Claire Cain Miller and BradStone also interviews a journalist from the Washington Post who now runs a hyperlocal site called Everyblock)
Though she writes that journalists hired to work for hyperlocal sites keep the site running through editing or going out to blog stories themselves, she reminds journalists that they also have something to learn from bloggers.
"At the Local, the financial model is based on the use of unpaid reporters. These so-called citizen journalists range from untrained writers to experience reporters willing to file stories just for the prestige of writing under the Times's umbrella. As a result, Kelley says many of her roughly twenty regular writers require only a light edit, but some need heavy work--par of course, she says, when relying on citizen journalists."
Gorce's article went further into detail about discussions within community hyperlocal sites on small things like stores, festivals, or even race (a blogger realized there weren't many people of other races at a concert in Maplewood).
Things that would normally be discussed between friends now can be shared with a wider range of people. But Gorce also shares the flip side, that a life style only surrounded by local news creates a Greek city-state like place; particular news is now fed to particular people.
In her last paragraph about the coverage through the blog Maplewoodian of a festival in Maplewood, Gorce writes:
"As for the Maplewoodian, it served visitors with plenty of advance and clear-eyed details previewing the festival. But afterward, editor Joe Strupp, never shy about posting opinions, went his own way on writing constituted controversy. "Maplewoodstock a Hit--But Is It Too Big?" was his mid-July contemplation. The post, though convincing, did not prompt any comments. As a Maplewood blogger, Strupp may be marching to the beat of his own drummer."
After reading all this hubbub about hyperlocal sites, I'd like to know why we haven't heard about them in the same sentence as facebook or twitter...