On the hunt for hyper-local online news outlets (and content generators)

Last month in my March 15 and 17th posts, I put some thought into the collapse of traditional news media and what it means for organizations that still need to spread the word about their causes.  I said it would become more important to find purveyors of local news — some of whom would be connected individuals who blog and twitter, and some of which would be online news-gathering/reporting sites that purport to focus on communities and neighborhoods.  In my last blog post, I reported on outside.in and concluded that it just isn’t there yet as a source of local news.

As for the present state, I couldn’t agree more with the conclusions of Esther Thorson and Margaret Duffy of the Missouri School of Journalism, who recently reported their research finding that “despite ongoing reports of financial troubles and cutbacks, legacy media are more comprehensive and more technologically advanced than citizen media and bloggers.”  Duffy, faculty chair in strategic communications of the Journalism School, noted that “topic coverage on blogs and citizen new sites is generally narrow and the sourcing is light.”

I am, however, hopeful, that local alternatives will emerge to shore up shrinking traditional news resources.  Here is my progress report on two sites that are trying to become portals for local news (“hyper-local”) created by locals (“user generated content”):

Newsvine.com says it is “updated continuously by citizens like you…an instant reflection of what the world is talking about at any given moment.”  Newsvine consists of links to articles “seeded” by individuals in the community.  Here in Sacramento, those stories come primarily from the Sacramento Bee and Associated Press.  Only one of the “top seeds” comes from a blog, one devoted to music, Two Songbirds Press.  The columnists are a little more interesting – although not necessarily in a good way.  Here’s a verbatim excerpt from Ms. V’s column (she writes with that alias and no photo thumbnail), writing about “Working Under CPS Rules“:

I am a licsenced home daycare provider iam writing the article so the outside could look in.
I’ve been licencsed since 2006. During that time until now i’ve been lie to lied on ducoments have been falsefied to cover others behind.

(Another aside:  I actually stumbled across Newsvine by noticing the widget on Sutter Medical Center’s website (www.checksutterfirst.org).  I find it curious that Sutter picked this site – even more curious that they posted a widget for reddit.com, which is outright foul about half the time.)

Patch.com, in beta testing, is a platform that can be used to create “comprehensive and trusted local coverage for towns and communities.”  I heard Jon Brod, their CEO and founder, on NPR.  It’s promising – but it’s not here in Sacramento yet.  I do like what they’re doing in towns like Maplewood, but I really, really hope they include more info about opportunities to get involved in local non-profit causes! (“Volunteer” and “Essential Maplewood” might include these opportunities but I’m not sure these category labels would jump off the page for someone who is enthusiastic about making a difference locally; instead they may turn to portals like volunteermatch.org, or charity navigator.)

Until better local portals develop, my strategy is to actively scan for locals who use social media to comment on opportunities to get involved or support causes.  I’d love to find some who are gathering a following.  To find them, I’m using:

Twitter, which has a search function that allows you to identify Twitterers who say they Twitter about where you live.

WordPress‘ tag surfing function, which can deliver blog posts where Sacramento has been tagged.

Got great local sources re: Sacramento?  Philanthrophile wants to know!

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