For Monday, now that we have some time before the midterm is due, let’s revisit hyperlocal journalism, which is perhaps one of the most central concepts of this course. We need to understand what uber-local news is, how it’s done, and when it succeeds … and when it doesn’t.
There’s quite a bit of reading here, but it’s worth it. Ready?
Start with the basics. This entire Nieman Reports issue (see the “is local news the answer?” collection of articles) is a great resource on the subject, but don’t worry—just pick one or two of these pieces that looks most interesting to you, to whet your appetite.
Next, let’s consider the case of Rob Curley. First, read this rather breathless profile of him from 2006 (and catch examples of his work); then, catch up with this postmortem of hyperlocal’s “flop” at the Washington Post. Curley and many of his friends are now at the Las Vegas Sun, where almost overnight they’re turning a little-known news org into a flagship example of really cool online journalism.
Finally … as we consider the struggles of Curley, Backfence (see my post earlier this week), and others, we need to understand how and why hyperlocal, for all its promise and potential for “saving” newspapers, so far has failed to develop a sustainable business model (but, then, what has in online journalism!?). As this American Journalism Review piece noted:
The failure of Backfence may offer no greater lesson than the old one about pioneers being the ones with arrows in their backs. New ventures fail all the time. But it could also sound a cautionary note about the present–and immediate future–of hyperlocal news sites. As big-media companies and entrepreneurs alike rush into the hyperlocal arena (see “Really Local,” April/May), it’s worth pausing and asking: Is there a real business in this kind of business? So far–and admittedly it’s still very early –the answer is no.
I know this is a lot of information here … so let’s synthesize it. For Monday, please respond with your take on hyperlocal journalism, focusing particularly on the lessons learned for making it more successful and sustainable in the future.