Parking violations and parochial content

Yesterday a colleague asked me what crowdsourcing was. So I chattered on about pothole maps, and crowdsource maps, pertrol and CD prices. As I was talking I realised that on the surface a lot of the subject areas seemed pretty mundane. Not the kind of thing you would win a pulitzer for.

Later on in the day Justin McLachlan, a US journalist (blogger and superhero), stopped by to leave a comment on my ‘something for the weekend’ ireport post. So I popped over to his site – which is very nice – and came across a great post about a parking violation:

Downtown this morning, I saw a 12 News truck parked outside the courthouse. In front of a red curb. Illegally.

So, I did what any good digital journalist would do: I snapped a picture with my iPhone and ran back to my office to blog about it.
There is a picture and everything.
What surprised me is that it’s generated 28 comments. And I mean heated debate.  From parking violation to journalism ethics debate in one sweep. Wow.
The two connected for me in gentle reminder about what can sometimes get lost in digital journalism.
What matters is what matters to your audience
Of course potholes, dog dirt, petrol and cd prices are mundane. They will always annoy, engage or motivate someone to participate because they matter to them.  Perhaps more than embedded reporting with an army or a clever online bulletin.  Maybe local,or better still parochial,  is the ultimate in viral content.
Never underestimate the everyday to attract an audience.
Oh, and never park near a red curb.

3 Replies to “Parking violations and parochial content”

  1. Hi Andy
    We’ve had exactly the same experience this week with a story about police parking.
    http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1044659_double_yellow_stop_for_special_brunch_
    More of a universal than parochial issue perhaps!
    Although most of the debate was around the police action, some strayed into the right’s and wrong’s of the “citizen journalist”.
    This comment caught my eye: “2 x questions…. 1. Would the photographers be as keen to take picture of a robber attacking an innocent person in the street? 2.If they did, have the nerve to take the photo … would the M.E.N. be as keen to put the picture on page 2?? “

  2. Nice story Sarah

    I agree, universal is a good phrase. I wasn’t using parochial in a critical way of the story but perhaps its a good word to describe the way people look at local news.

    There is a temptation when talking about the web to interpret universal as big (global), emotional studies. The web is big so you have to think big. But this just proves that a good story may be right on your doorstep.

    It’s one of those things I have to remind myself of everyday.

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