In Dayton, we have DaytonOS- and why.

The New York Times has a piece on local websites taking the place of the local newspaper. It’s not something I want to see, but, since the Dayton Daily News has almost given up on real journalism, I think it’s a trend we need to watch:

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

The sites, like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources. They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.

via ‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers – NYTimes.com.

A few of us started DaytonOS.com to provide a local starting point as a hyperlocal site- gathering feeds from local bloggers plus giving the general public a place where they could publish their own content without having to start a site. Site traffic still has a way to go, but, it’s a start.

The problem with the hyperlocal site is the same problem that the Dayton Daily News is having- as they lay off or buy-out veteran journalists: the institutional knowledge and networks are fading. Great journalism doesn’t just happen- it comes from knowing your subject matter and having great sources. Woodward and Bernstein wouldn’t have broken Watergate if they were just rookies.

We also can’t count on public officials to generate good reliable content. Trying to read police reports reminds me of trying to decipher the writings of a fifth grader, and most legal filings are even more obtuse.

At some point, we’re going to realize that we’re going to miss real reporters and have to find a new mechanism to pay them. Because, as this part-time amateur reporter can tell you, it’s a lot of time and work to keep publishing without a paycheck.

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3 Responses

  1. Greg Hunter April 13, 2009 / 10:05 am
    David I wish I could express what my brain thinks in a way that people understand. I cannot write well, but I certainly can figure things out. If I have access to the data then we could really write some interesting, informative and quirky news. Today I was linked to the MacNeil/Lehrer report on Dayton and the Arts scene through a “Friend” on Facebook. I learned more about Dayton, its finances and its troubles than I ever have from the DDN or WHIO. Now one could say I have not been paying attention, but I would dispute that accusation. ?

    I think I learned more for three reasons:

    1. The reporter actually asked the right questions

    2. They asked the right people the questions.

    3. The reputation of the questioner was held in high regard (MacNeil/Lehrer) so the questioners answered, candidly.

    Now what happened to that kind of reporting in Dayton? I think you touch on some of those subjects. Here are my take on the issues:

    1. The news division was forbidden to offend the advertisers – This is the biggest problem first and foremost. Bloggers and other content providers are “somewhat” free from this restriction, as they make no money and have not been beaten down by the boss for posting local news an opinion. The slippery slope of bowing to the pressure of advertisers comes home to roost if the paper never said anything negative about the industries that generated most of their revenue. Over the last 10 years that has been real estate, autos and other retailers. If the newspaper could not afford the loss of 50% of the advertising revenue every time they ran a story, then they should be out of business. A newspaper builds loyalty by saying the “right” things at least some of the time. But the news papers and TV will always say “no one saw this coming”. There are plenty that saw this (insert – housing crisis, oil boom, car crunch, credit crunch) coming, but the papers did not want to offend and we as a community suffer.

    2. The newspaper reporters and journalists that lived in the area, knew the system and could get tips on stories as well as access the data are no longer employed because they got downsized or would not abandon their professional ethics for Issue 1. This is no longer the case as news organizations hire stenographers or news readers. So, they either have old ones who willing go along with the game (Jim and Cheryl) or new ones that they abandon when they finally learn the area. For example, I would love to know if they offered Asa George a choice, less money or the road, or did they just give her the road?

    3. The rise of the internet led to data that was more accessible and allows one to figure out stories that may be interesting, but a majority of the these systems are hard to use and layer the data almost purposely to avoid figuring things out. I mean does the City of Kettering really want someone to be able to accurately tell How many break ins are occurring and where? No? Nor does the Lottery commission want to tell me the sales figures by zip code. Either of these two things should be readily accessible, but most of the time the data would prove embarrassing. Of course embarrassment is a function of telling the truth. But the DDN can embarrass individuals directly by putting pictures of people arrested at placed in Montgomery County Lockup. Have I looked at these? Absolutely! Did I see somebody I knew today, yes, unfortunately? Could I link to the picture and write about it. No! I wonder why not? (I would not have written the story on him until I wrote my own story or that of my family as EVERYONE has warts!)

    Currently bloggers can ignore the advertisers and not many are getting sued for defamation as there is no money being made from the negativity. I think the Google model of accepting ads on your site without monitoring or pressure may be a good one going foreword. In other words if Google pays you for your ads, by hits, that is a good business model and no pressure is applied to you as a blogger. Now Google will be pressured by Monsanto, not to allow their ads to be put on an Anti Monsanto site, while Google will recommend or advertise that they can direct the right ads to high hit rate blogs that are not bashing their product.

    Now what type of quirky news could I one write?

    The back story on each of Drexel Dave‘s Dayton Original’s Patented (congrats by the way David)

    Why someone died. I would love to link to an obituary and know why they died. I know it his hard and harsh sometimes, but it might provide some insight in how to live and what to avoid. I found a 38 year old woman’s 3-line, obituary the other day and I just wanted to know how she might have perished. Of course I have a few preconceived notions on the issues as the way the obituary is written gives a good indication of whether it was an accident or some other issue. So what did I do? Google of course and then I hit the Clerk of Courts web site to see if we could find something. Well I did not find the reason why she died I found two possibilities.

    Ok I am trying to make water flow up hill and I am not getting paid for that, so I must go to work, and even though I cannot afford and editor, nor can I write well, I will continue to do so, until I get it write. (Cue David Lauri) .

    PS Does anyone know anyone that went to Costa Rica this past week? Old Geno might have been telling the truth, for once, in my humble opinion.

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  2. David Esrati April 13, 2009 / 1:57 pm

    If you want to read real crime reporting- that gives you insight on what really happened, we’re lucky to have Larkin Vonalt in town. I highly recommend her site: http://athousanddays.wordpress.com/
    it’s now always crime- but when she writes crime- like the story of the girl in the trash can, you really get a feel for what happened.
    Journalism will make a comeback- just not real soon.

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  3. Larkin April 13, 2009 / 4:59 pm
    Aw shucks, David. Very nice.  The story of Heather Walker can’t be found on that site. It, along with a piece I did about the Kafka-esque horror story of Heather and Doron Walker and their two dead children is at Steve Huff’s old website  True Crime Weblog.

    http://www.truecrimeweblog.com/2008/05/lost-girl-by-larkin-vonalt.html

    http://www.truecrimeweblog.com/2008/05/end-of-world-by-larkin-vonalt.html

    Steve is probably the pre-eminent crime blogger ever. So  much so that he has been paid for appearances on court tv and the like. Finally, he took a paying gig, running True Crime Report for the Village Voice media, a much more restrictive venue and much the poorer for it. Still, people have to eat. When I do “job writing” it’s rare that I write what I really think, and that’s about par for the business. 

    Here are a couple of true crime stories from my own blog:

    http://athousanddays.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/murder-up-the-street/

    — and not Dayton, but Xenia, and effing unbelievable:

    http://athousanddays.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/breathless/

    It’s interesting to me that the double murder up the block from us got very little play and the neighborhood got smeared in the process, yet the murder two weeks ago on North Main got coverage several days running with nary a mention of the character of the neighborhood. The real punch line? This, my neighborhood (Lower Historic Daytonview- Wright/Dunbar) is in reality the safest neighborhood in the city. You don’t have to take my word for it, the Dayton Police Department will tell you the same. 

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