Hyper-local news and media

With the closing of our local television station, CHCA-TV my ears perk up when ever I hear via radio, TV, blogs or face2face conversations mention of possible new options. On Sunday, while we were driving down to Innisfail to meet-up with some friends, CBC news from Calgary was on the Jeep’s radio (yes – I still listen to radio). I caught the end of a segment on how a new voice of journalism can be found in ‘hyper-local’ news-papers.

Since I had never heard the term “hyper-local” before, I couldn’t wait to Google it.  “Hyper-local” primarily refers to news coverage of community-level events. The type of events that national, provincial and even regional news media does not cover. “Hyper-local” is happening in newspapers but it also applies to other media. Online, web based sources makes a lot of sense. BlogTO, covering news and events in Toronto, Ontario  is a good example of a community based “hyper-local” site. Apparently they receive millions of views a month from the web viewing public.

Where does hyper-local news comes from? There are examples where technology goes out and searches for any reference to your local area and presents that info, news, events and whatever in a single access point. Aggregation of the news is convenient and efficient but where does that news come from in the first place? Usually people reporting on the news and events. If people are not reporting then the technology based aggregation sites will not have the content.

The other example of a hyper-local news source are small groups of full-time, paid professional reporters supplemented by citizen journalists. In the CBC radio news segment there was an example of a professional journalist who left main stream media to start their own hyper-local media newspaper. Advertising revenue was sufficient enough to fund the paper and allow the staff to continue publishing. Of course they worked with a totally new business model and not the traditional newspaper model that is currently floundering.The debate over what is legitimate news and what has true value is currently underway.

Critics of hyper-local refer to such granular news as ‘the pothole report” e.g. potholes on my street may have great interest to me, but they mean nothing to you. If the providers of hyper-local news pay attention to what their communities are eager to know, pot-hole reports may not appear in the paper or blog.

UPDATE: Global TV out of Edmonton, AB has announced that it will still report on news from Red Deer and Central Alberta via staff and free-lance reporters. That’s nice but considering that they also report news highlights from many other communities our on-air time will be limited. We still need a broad and in-depth coverage of news and community events here in Central Alberta. Who will step up and bring TV back to Red Deer? Maybe the hyper-local model has a future for us.

Dean

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