Hyperlocal news in Canada: a J-Source project

Robert WashburnOver the coming weeks J-Source Innovation
Robert Washburn, will
highlight articles, blogs, resources, links and other materials to
enhance understanding of hyperlocal journalism and assist those
interested in starting a hyperlocal news site.

The practice of hyperlocal journalism is spreading quickly
as a term replacing what historically was known as “local news” in broadcasting
and “community reporting” in newspapers.

This is mainly an Internet-based phenomenon, but a growing
form of journalism in the face of corporate consolidation, which has ravaged
many of the regional and community-oriented newsrooms across the industry.  As newsrooms are gutted or closed, the
industry is facing a growing grassroots movement from bloggers, citizen
journalists, laid-off journalists and others, who are seeking to replace the
homogeneous content of so many weeklies, radio stations and broadcast news.
Local content is given minimal space and time, while centrally produced
materials or shared content fills the remainder.

The term “hyperlocal” is applied to journalism and news coverage at a community level.  It is often used in the context of mainstream media as a way
of contrasting the regional, national and international content with very
narrow interests. Hyperlocal coverage depends on creating a niche
for itself through its tight focus.

Technology plays a huge role in providing an inexpensive
platform for creating, distributing and consuming the information. Utilizing the
Internet, reporters will post digital photos and video, along with audio and
other multimedia. There is a
highly interactive element and audience participation is encouraged. New
social media tools are also leveraged to enhance communication and distribution.

Viable economic models continue to plague this form as with the entire industry. Non-profits, co-operatives, traditional advertising
and other business models are being explored as entrepreneurs wrestle with
generating revenue streams. In some cases, the journalism is done by volunteers
on free websites.

The opportunities are huge. The issues are fascinating. Its
impact on journalism is worthy of investigation.

Over the next few months, the J-Source Innovation section will seek
to provide information about hyperlocal journalism, post resources and
stimulate discussion. As well, you can follow @jsourceinnovate on Twitter for more up to
the minute ideas, trends and news. We would also like to start an inventory of Canadian
examples of hyperlocal journalism. If you are aware of a hyperlocal journalism
project, send us the link. Let us know what you would like; what you think; and
what is possible.

Robert Washburn is a professor of e-journalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont.