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.
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.