LJWorld.com weblogs Adam Vossen
For this class, I was assigned a neighborhood in Lawrence and expected to report on what went on inside its specified boundaries.
This is known as hyper local journalism, and it is a trend that has been growing in the industry for some time now.
The neighborhood I was assigned to cover was Old West Lawrence. Old West Lawrence has a character, history and active residents that some of the neighborhoods in town may lack.
But it still wasn’t all smooth sailing.
One thought that crossed my mind before and during the assignment was “Lawrence isn’t a huge town and already has the Lawrence Journal-World. How much more coverage does each individual neighborhood need? Does local really need a ‘hyper’ in front of it?”
In his blog, Mark Coddington addresses this issue and discusses the contrast between hyperlocal journalism for a rural town and for an area of a large city. I’d say that attempting to cover Old West Lawrence falls somewhere in between.
For a smaller community, or neighborhood, news doesn’t always mean crime, political issues, and the like usually covered on a newspaper front page. As Coddington points out, it can be small-town gossip shared after church on Sunday.
When I spoke with residents in Old West Lawrence, I did get gossip from the residents. But because all of my reporting was going to feed into the LJW, I didn’t feel like this was relevant and lost one of the factions of hyperlocal journalism.
If I did find something newsworthy, chances were the LJW had already gotten to it. My foray into hyperlocal journalism was hitting all kinds of road blocks. I was frustrated. Why couldn’t a meteor just fall into the neighborhood, unbeknownst to the LJW? Then I was sure to get an A, I thought to myself.
One aspect of the assignment was a video package portraying the neighborhood’s personality. Finally, I saw the validity of hyperlocal journalism.
If something similar had been done for the city of Lawrence as a whole, certainly each neighborhood wouldn’t have been given its due. Because I was only covering the area between 6th and 9th, from Kentucky to Michigan, I was able to share perspectives that may have gone unnoticed.
Hyperlocal journalism may mean changing your idea of news. I had to. What is important in a smaller community might not hold on the front page of the New York Times, but to the inhabitants of that community it’s going to be the first thing brought up when they run into their neighbor buying milk at the store.
That’s something like a chat room, to you bloggers.