Tag Archives: local reporting

South Devon: The Hyperlocal Blackspot?

Or so it would seem… Following this week’s lecture on the rise of hyperlocal blogging as a low-cost, far-reaching mode of online journalism, I did a search for South Devon hyperlocal blogs on Google.

Most of the maps detailing the whereabouts of hyperlocal sites show a significant blank spot around the South Hams area of Devon, where I used to work as a local reporter. Even Northcliffe, the producers of the bigger local and regional newspapers in the area, with their 23 local sites launched last year, had a significant gap in their site map.

Here is the South Hams:


Clearly plenty happens here, and I’m not just saying that as a former reporter for the area.  Local papers have crumbled elsewhere while South Hams Newspapers is still going strong… So why has the 21st century still not quite reached the area in terms of futuristic journalism?

Maybe it’s because the average reader profile of the local paper does not match the profile of a person who would look for their news on a hyperlocal website.  Maybe it’s because not enough people in the area are ‘media-savvy’ enough to know what hyperlocal journalism could offer… 

The appetite for local news has not changed.  What has changed is the nationwide appetite for local newspapers.  Surely this means, then, that it is just a matter of time before places like the South Hams, or from the looks of things, the majority of Ireland, begin to spring hyperlocal sites.  A huge benefit is that it brings the whole community together into one place, from which they can spray off into whatever they care about the most.  As I’ve said previously on this blog, a huge part of local journalism is feedback from your consumer – hyperlocal sites have the potential to merge consumer with journalist, community with stories, reading with commentary.  It raises the bar without reducing the emphasis on the beauty of local news’ relevance to the average person.

As for the South Hams… Well, no doubt we’ll get there in the end.

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Social Media: Power to the Pimpled

Whether he was serious or not, Andrew Marr’s scathing description of citizen journalism certainly threw an interesting shade on the subject-of-the-week at Cardiff Journalism School. 

After the fast-paced discussion of the role of Social Media by Claire Wardle of the BBC’s College of Journalism, something which stuck with me was her reference to Jay Rosen’s article about The People Formerly known as the Audience and their changing role from reactors to interactors.  It got me wondering, if readers are to users as magazines are to tablets, what are journalists to? 

When I wored at my local paper, my editor used to quote Mark Twain, saying that the mark of a good news story was one which someone, somewhere did not want published.  As an inexperienced local reporter, I came across many such people of a publication-day morning. 

Once, when I had been in the job a matter of weeks, I wrote a very small article saying there had been rumours that the local Post Office was going to close.  I had been unable to get confirmation from the press office or representatives at the local branch, but my editor said that rumours themselves were justifiable news, so we went with that.  Come Friday morning, I received a visit from the local postmistress who explained in no uncertain terms just how mistaken we had been, and that I was a disgrace to journalism in general and the elderly Post Office users in particular.  I think she would have given me a journalism-ASBO if she could. 

Needless to say, we printed a clarification/apology the following week, I realised that being the local reporter meant taking verbal punches with the glory no matter who was ultimately responsible, and began to walk the extra mile whenever I needed to post a parcel. 

So is it terrifying to face the prospect that the people ‘formerly known as the audience’ will soon be brought that significant step closer to the journalists themselves?  No.  Not really.  Because another point I picked up from Claire’s words, as well as those of the many respected journalists who spoke at Friday’s Tomorrow’s Journalism Conference, was that quality journalism stood to be enhanced by the future, not damaged. 

I agree with this.  I think that there is a level of security facilitated by distance from the consumer which the weekly newspaper journalist/ columnist/ TV and radio reporter has when delivering a story in a controversial way.  Users who can comment directly and immediately on journalism provide a challenge to the journalist to step up their game.  There is no room for error or complacency anymore, the bar has been raised, and that is why it is so exciting to be training right now.  Because in some ways we are training to be multi-tasking journalists of the juggling-small-children-while-riding-a-camel-on-roller-skates calibre.  

Having said that, try not to aggravate the local postal workers.  The buzz is no match for the looming realisation that you’ve run out of stamps.


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