Helping others do journalism

My Guardian column this week is on the New York Times’ hyperlocal experiment with mentions of CUNY’s involvement, Patch, and Barisatnet. Snippets:

The New York Times is embarking on a test of blogging in two neighbourhoods and three towns around New York. So far, there’s nothing remarkable in that: another attempt by a newspaper to grab for the elusive golden fleece called hyperlocal – the ability to serve readers and small advertisers in highly targeted geographic niches. But what is new in this effort is that the Times is trying to create a platform to help others – not staff reporters, but community members – make journalism. A wall just fell. . . .

All these parties must collaborate, not compete. They must create complementary content that fills out their local news worlds so that each of them adds value and stands out for it. Writing the same story everyone else is covering does not do that; it never did. They also should work together to create a framework that supports all of the sites commercially – that is, an ad network – and promotionally – that is, with links.

The days of one news organisation owning a town and its news are over; no one can afford to do that any more. Instead, if these experiments succeed, they will do so by collaborating to create a new network – a new ecosystem – of local news.

Their work is vital because I believe such structures will be the building blocks of the future of news – of what will replace or at least supplement the services that will disappear as regional and city newspapers shrink and die. And die they will. In the US, UK and elsewhere in Europe, metropolitan papers and their over-leveraged owners are in dire trouble. We have little or no time to decide what can and will succeed them. These efforts around New York are attempts at an answer. Whether they will grab the fleece at last, it’s too soon to say. I’ll let you know.

  • I couldn’t agree more. The current structure for newspapers is dead. There is no money to be made (except for a handful of fierce competitors) covering the globe or regions. Hence, there is no money to support honest journalism in the guise that has existed for the last handful of decades.
    There is money to be made connecting individuals in small areas to goods and services and community news.
    I can’t believe it has taken this long for the media to reach this realisation. Many, incredibly, are still resisting.
    It is only this year really that tide has substantially turned and significant numbers in the journalism field are really trying to turn their minds to creating a structure that can provide financial support for honest, independent journalism.
    It is a hard ask, indeed. Today’s journalists may not be suited to the task (for all sorts of reasons). But, it needs to be done.

  • So am I. This is exactly what we’ve had in mind starting 1 year ago the network of 10 sites for biggest polish cities, where hired staff helped CtJ covering their neighborhood. And the result is…1 million UU in January:-)

  • I submit that “specialized” is another way to be “local.” We had been modestly successful stubbornly covering two narrow stores (SW US urban housing stats and GSE mortgage finance) for a couple of years, although unlike a locality, the original stories have sort of evaporated lately.

    IIRC “stringers” used to be amateurs who would go into action if a national / international story popped up locally. Any chance that model could be relevant to the localized web organization?

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