June Carnival of Journalism

I have the pleasure of hosting this months Carnival of journalism, a monthly extravaganza of posts from the journalism blogasphere. (You can find out more here).  Last month Ryan Sholin suggested a theme: “What should news organizations stop doing, today, immediately, to make more time for innovation?”.

In that spirit I have done the same and suggested an area to consider (if fellow carnivaliers wanted to).

Is (digital) journalism better the more local it is and what does that do to growth?

I chose that question for a few reasons. I’ve been dipping in and out of the comment around Rob Curley’s move (and some of the talk around his move back in 2006 when he went ‘big time’) At the same time I’ve been mulling over some of the coverage of flooding and fires and the like coming out of newspapers here and stateside.

All of which made me think of a debate that took place at an event as part of our last Meld project. The debate came when we where trying to define what the journalist of 2013 will look like – maybe that should have been the post – and a few of us had them as a journo who made a name locally and was now working globally. One of the group, Joanna Geary, got a bit upset (and rightly so) that this somehow limited local journalism as something that people left behind – it wasn’t important.

In fact the debate got me thinking so much I even pondered it on camera and got a few replies.
The vibrant range of stories that local throws up and the apparent belief that (hyper)local is where the industry needs to be suggests that local is better. But local is a limited market. Is local to limiting for growth?
What do you think?

Over to the carnival…

First in to the ring is ‘digital’ Dave Cohn and or him ‘local is better’ is a value judgment. But thinking about his latest project, spot.us, he suggests a ‘sci-fi’ future where news is a locally produced commodity on community platforms. Journalists become employees of the community. Where does the journalism industry fit here and where is the growth? Well that’s something the industry need to ask themselves: “The real question is if that platform will be built by somebody who holds the same values of traditional media or somebody who wants to make a quick buck”

Next up is Charlie Beckett who is thinking about the language and the result of getting it wrong. What is local? How we do we measure growth? For Charlie, local is  ‘’better” when it is genuinely local. And our concept of “growth” has to be redefined in terms of expanding communications or networks, not always as profit.

Adrian Monck pitches in on the basis that local journalism based on geography isn’t his bag. It’s all about communities of interest – networks – for Adrian. What does that means for the journalism industry?   “In the future, journalism may well survive as information advocacy. It’s already heading there with some NGOs. And yes – in the future – all journalism may be not-for-profit.”

Next in my in-box, Jack Lail, who has some good tips/advice/suggestions for those looking to get in to ‘hyperlocal’ journalism. His biggest tip? Don’t call it hyperlocal: “once you call it that, it’s doomed. Doomed to be irrelevant. Doomed to be ignored? Doomed to be abhorred by advertisers.”

Over in NZ, Dave Lee is trying to cast out news agency demons, and suggests a ‘solution’ to the problem of dying local journalism. His suggestion is a NewsHub (I’d check the url on that one Dave) which acts like a news agency but isn’t – it’s a kind of critical mass of local content. He says “by harnessing the power of local digital journalism and turning it into a mutual, lucrative business, local media can grow and grow.”

John Hassell has also been pondering how local networks can work for journalism. He sees some commonality with politics. It all starts with local angagement and the chance to take risks. Whatever it shakes out as John is convinced that “the name of the game, I’m convinced, will be local. It makes everything else possible.”

Wendy Withers rejoins the carnival (glad you’re better Wendy) with her view that Local isn’t better and her take on why so much ‘local’ doesn’t work. Given all the opportunities that the web offers Wendy wonders why the newspaper industry doesn’t seem to be able to get a handle on what works. Maybe, she says, “We need to stop seeing Web 2.0 as a way to create a community we control but as a way to join a greater community.”

Paul Bradshaw, the multi-platform fella he is, posted a video response to the question and then, later, a blog post to develop some of his thoughts. The nub, all journalism is local and the term itself is a bit of an old media crutch.

Doug Fisher ponders the points in the question with a doom’ish start “any news outlet focused solely on geographic community in the digital age is limiting its growth prospects, if not flirting with suicide”. The rest is less pessimistic. He also has a go at defining the journalist of the future to.

Much later:

A few strays for the debate. Alf Hermida returns from honeymoon  (as good a late note as you can have) and ponders, like Paul Bradshaw, if the questions is the right one: “The issue then is less whether local is better, but rather how do we redefine local to remain relevant in a digital news environment.”