Monday, April 19, 2010

Hyperlocal Newsgathering at #TAL10

LEEDS HOSTED the Talk About Local Un-Conference on Saturday 17th April 2010 bringing together a collection of community activists, web developers and journalists interested in hyperlocal publishing. The day was an enthusiastic affair which will lead to many local community websites and hyperlocal blogs being re-invigorated and re-freshed with lots of new ideas, methods and approaches.

A conference session was held  on Hyperlocal Newsgathering. The participants revealed a wide variety of methods are being used to collect local news and information to furnish hyperlocal blog posts, features and articles. These can roughly be broken down into four different areas:

Community: This covers such practical things as walking or cycling your home patch and discovering leaflets, posters, flyers and official notices about events and issues.

Councillor Sean Brady explained one of his key news sources came through drinking at the local coffee bar. Interesting local stories and views can also be gathered through speaking to people at natural gathering points for the community i.e. the school gates at dropping off/picking up time.

Community and school newsletters can be a vital source of information on local activities and groups. Making and maintaining official contacts with local PCSO's, Neighbourhood Wardens or Community Rangers might also ensure you get a regular dripfeed of local public information and advice.   

Council/Official Sources: Ploughing through Council minutes and agendas can be time consuming but unearth really useful local information. Actually attending Council committees and meetings of the Local Strategic Partnership can give you a first-hand insight into local issues and decision-making. Keeping track of Council planning Committees and sub-committees, by online and/or physical means, is another useful activity routinely carried out by journalists. Making full use of information released under FOI (the Freedom of Information Act) and actually making FOI requests is another useful activity that can often result in stories from a differnt 'expose' angle. 

And don't forget getting yourself on official mailing lists to be sent press releases from the public, private and voluntary sector. 

Social Networking/Facebook, etc: Many of those present used Facebook, YouTube or Flickr, not only to share stories with local people, but also to encourage local people to share their information, knowledge and expertise about the local area.

Online: Tom Steinberg from MySociety explained how e-mail alerts and RSS from sites such as fixmystreet, theyworkforyou, whatdotheyknow, and OPSI’s unlocking service, can lead to regular supplies of data about your area. Google Alerts correctly edited can also provide useful information based around key words. And of course your own comments on your website can provide leads to local stories. A key source for background information and sometimes direct leads to local material can also come through the use of Twitter.

Further information: An essential e-book on Hyperlocal Newsgathering has been written by one time VikingFM journalist Adam Westbrook which is worth every penny of the asking price for the aspiring community reporter. Also The Silhillian is developing a new essential online support for Hyperlocal journalists on WikiSplash.

More news from Talk About Local soon, but in the meanwhile it has to be reported locally that the 'award' for the "best attack on Hyperlocal from traditional media" was unfortunately won by the Hull Daily Mail (read story here).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Talking About Local Community Websites #TAL10

THE HEDON BLOGGER is delighted to be in Leeds at the weekend taking part in Talk About Local 2010. This event will bring together some of the most enthusiastic hyperlocal publishers in the country.

The event has been organised at the Old Broadcasting House in partnership with the Guardian newspaper's Local Initiative.

All the key things that help and support community and local newsgathering websites to continue to bring you the local 'news' will be under discussion.

Unlike a traditional 'conference' the items under discussion are not arranged by the organisers in advance, but arranged by those attending on the day. Whilst this might seem chaotic, in actual fact it ensures that people get to discuss what they really want to.

However, early pre-discussions indicate that sessions are likely to take place on:
  • Newsgathering methods
  • Covering the General Election
  • Meeting the costs (even a 'free' blog costs!)
  • Hyperlocal - the next steps?
I wrote about last years event which was inspirational and had me buzzing for weeks. I expect to come back with the same fire and determination from this event!

For those of you on Twitter, then you can follow the event at #TAL10 search.