Posted by: William Perrin | July 29, 2009

What would you do with a journalist?

Quite a few hyperlocal sites got started to fill a gap left by the papers, radio, TV and trad. journalists.   Some hyperlocal people have strong views about what they perceive as a failure of journalism and a need to step into a gap.

Things have gone full circle: some hyperlocal sites are doing so well that I am now getting queries about how journalists can ‘help’ hyperlocal sites from folk who are journalists or manage papers.

This will cause much spluttering and indignation from people who set up hyperlocal sites due to what they perceive as a failure of journalism locally.  As someone who was personally monstered by a tabloid I empathise.  But if i have got over it, you can so bear with me.  Look at Lichfield to see what a journalist can do when they get to creating a hyperlocal site.

So if you run or contribute to a hyperlocal website, forum etc imagine waking up one day to find a nice shiny shrink-wrapped journalist on your doorstep with passable modern media skills and all the classic attributes a journalist should have (I said ‘imagine’ not all journalists are NOWesque in the same way not all hyperlocal bloggers are foaming mad Sid Nutters).  And imagine that journalist is yours for say a day a week or can work with a herd of local blogs over the week.    What would you do with them?

Here’s my starter for ten on what i would do with a free journalist in say Kings Cross:

add capacity – we have a great volunteer team but we are mostly busy in the day time. There are loads of things i would like followed up with some persistent phone wrangling during office hours.

bit more bite – there are quite  few issues in a rough area I am loath to follow up for fear of upsetting neighbours (one of my volunteer contributors had 14 windows broken in a planning dispute by someone with an air rifle).  Would be nice to have someone at arms length to tackle more difficult stuff.

court and crime reporting – in general any specialist reporting where contempt and special rules apply.

town hall stuff – there is so much guff coming out of the town hall it is hard to keep up.  Volunteers just can’t go to all the meetings we have a life to lead.  PitsnPots in Stoke-On-Trent demonstrates that you can have a whole site just devoted to the council.  This isn’t just a capacity issue there are lots of special skills required here that I kind of assume a well trained journo will have or could bring from their parent – keeping track of big property developments, understanding the budget, declarations of interest, expenses, procurement etc

skills transfer – i can write ok but no one has ever shown me any basic tips for writing to get attention without being sensationalist and the basics of libel etc

build links – if the bins are being emptied badly in Midford as well as Little Snoring at the other end of the county is there a bigger picture from sticking the blogs together?  And in general just network things together a bit.

broker relationships to syndicate local content – i like it when the paper reuses my stuff, as long as they ask, which they do.  I publish it so that people can read it.  But it is childish that they don’t give me a link.  I don’t kid myself that they make any money from my stuff so i don’t expect to be paid.  Might be nice though if the local rag makes a donation to a local charity say for young people every time they lift a piece.

What would you do? Moderation is on.

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Responses

  1. I’d welcome them with open arms! But then, I’m biased ’cause I’m working on the hyper-local created by a journalist. (Thanks for the link by the way.)

    Those issues (especially Courts and Council) are ones we’re facing. We’re hoping we can get funding for a part-time Journalist to cover these things. Looks like we’re in a good position, too. We get a lot of credibility from having a journalist (or three) on side and I don’t reckon we’ll have a hard search.

    What you touch on though is this animosity between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – they *will* combine. Embrace it now before you’re left playing catch up.

  2. When it comes to courts, the new theory is of course that a centrally-funded, beefed-up PA will service everyone’s needs.. what is going to be fascinating to see is whether ‘other media’ outlets it claims it will service with free court copy includes the likes of local sites like LichfieldBlog.

    After all, as good UK tax-payers one and all, our money will have gone into any new PA content machine; therefore, to my mind, we ought to reap the benefit.

    Of course, the same argument applies to the BBC and their video embeds; now, it seems, that is the preserve of 1 million plus unique sites only… the fact that is ‘our’ content as good licence fee payers appears to cut little ice.

    Big media will – I fear – continue to look after eachother; ‘big’ Government likewise still has a long, long way to go to recognise that in every economic likelihood the future belongs to the small.

  3. Welcome them … do stuff separately and together … then have a chat about out what’s different and what’s the same about community/citizen/social reporting and “journalism”.
    My hunch is that different values may be as interesting as different skills. Depending on the joiurnalist of course.
    Oh, and report it of course:-)
    Either way, can’t lose. Everyone learns.

  4. I think this business model’s the way forward for local community journalism – I really do.
    I started out in the profession about 15 years ago and even then I could see that there was a whole tier of community life (surrounding local community groups, societies, community forum/parish council meetings, local campaigns etc) that rarely got reported where I live in Leeds. And that there is a social and democratic need for publicity in this sector.
    Sadly, many local newspapers are so distant from their readers and communities and so reliant on press releases and on-diary stuff that it’s inevitable that people would start to do their own hyperlocal sites – nature abhors a vacuum, after all…
    I’m looking to develop my own social enterprise which will provide training for community reporters/groups, a community newspaper and website.
    Does anyone have any ideas how to get initial funding?

  5. […] What would you do with a journalist? « Talk About Local (alpha) So if you run or contribute to a hyperlocal website, forum etc imagine waking up one day to find a nice shiny shrink-wrapped journalist on your doorstep with passable modern media skills and all the classic attributes a journalist should have (I said ‘imagine’ not all journalists are NOWesque in the same way not all hyperlocal bloggers are foaming mad Sid Nutters). And imagine that journalist is yours for say a day a week or can work with a herd of local blogs over the week. What would you do with them? (tags: blogging blogs hyperlocal local perrin) […]

  6. I would like to see journalists (metaphorically) peeling onions!
    I’ll explain – our communities face numerous dilemmas’ and difficulties, and much of this is borne out of a lack of useful information. As a society we appear to have become ‘headliners’ rather than storytellers. Getting behind the story and learning more about each other in our society fosters growth and understanding, something not easily achievable without detailed and thorough information.
    Sadly there are huge chunks of our society who are only able to make immediate and (maybe) ill informed judgments, not through ignorance (as some newspapers would have us believe) but simply, because they do not have sufficient, accurate information on which to base their choices.
    Whilst not suggesting that journalists become simply information gatherers; if journalists really got beneath the surface of local communities the picture they paint would be a considerably bigger and brighter one.
    To have journalists ‘integrate’ and connect with the so called ‘hard to reach’ areas within communities, they could develop and foster understanding and interest, which in turn, could create greater cohesion. They could connect with local forums and community groups, get involved in the activities of areas and their passions, get to know people rather than take the ‘in and out’ approach so often experienced by those seeking to have a voice and thereby avoid the resultant ‘being reported upon’, rather than being a part of the whole process.

  7. […] What would you do with a journalist? « Talk About Local (alpha) – Very interesting article and one that offers good advice. "So if you run or contribute to a hyperlocal website, forum etc imagine waking up one day to find a nice shiny shrink-wrapped journalist on your doorstep with passable modern media skills and all the classic attributes a journalist should have (I said ‘imagine’ not all journalists are NOWesque in the same way not all hyperlocal bloggers are foaming mad Sid Nutters). And imagine that journalist is yours for say a day a week or can work with a herd of local blogs over the week. What would you do with them?" […]

  8. […] What would you do with a journalist? […]

  9. Hi I’m a social documentary Photo-journalist that runs a local site in Stoke on trent but instead of slagging people or celebs off (tabloid reference), I choose to celebrate the creative people of Stoke on Trent.

    I wouldn’t say I was shiny of shrink wrapped anymore but I’m still committed to helping people through the use of community. Only last week we created two job opportunities, by introducing our members to each other and sharing common ground, friendship and skills. That’s gotta be more impressive than going down the jobcentre 🙂


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