Continuing new media’s obsession with giving new labels to well-established hack habits, patch journalism is back in vogue under the guise of ‘hyperlocal’ websites. Small-scale bloggers, tweeters and enterprising journalism grads are springing up to replace tired, understaffed local media outlets to cover their areas.
These online communities have sprung up to replace dying local print coverage which might cover a wider region without any depth. New sites covering anything from a single posh road in London to a village in the West Midlands have sprung up, but it’s all on a micro-news level. We’re talking about the opening of a new Tesco, here. Or changes to bin collection dates. Suddenly(ish) this is all very sexy stuff.
Who exactly has the time to set up all these local enterprises? Super awesome journalism graduates of course, young talent who can’t squeeze themselves through the increasingly narrow Big Media doors. Equally, they may not be employed simply because their new-fangled skillsets of internet-based research, digital know-how and multimedia dabblings don’t quite fit into the average print organisation yet.
The independent journalist
The site, according to Hannah, covers events of extreme local interest. Her first public post announced that Bournville had made Open Street Map. This was followed up with a report on a shooting incident only a couple of days later, which the Birmingham Post subsequently picked up. But hard news isn’t the priority; the community is. Hannah suggests that hyperlocal journalism is a ‘different entity’ to traditional reporting altogether:
“Bournville Village isn’t out there to offer something better/alternative to traditional journalism…It is just trying to help build links between the community in Bournville which have perhaps been lost in some ways.”
Like many British online media trends, hyperlocal journalism is an immigrant from America. As local papers collapsed, local bloggers rose to become authoritative news and opinion makers. But bloggers are fearful of potential libel cases, and indeed there is no comforting media parent to provide the funds should someone bring a suit. Hannah therefore leaves hard news to the established print outfits in favour of stories which buoyed the community spirit: “Positive stories which highlight good points about the community work best. People want to feel proud of the area they live in.”
It’s pretty brave to try going hyperlocal on your own; the practicalities of sustaining enough content for your site mean there’s little time to try a give it a solid financial structure. But there’s been one very solid outcome for Hannah – after launching Bournville Village, she was offered three jobs before taking one at social media agency Podnosh. That’s an outcome most young British journos would be happy with for now.