Recognizing the mammal when you see it

Every time I'm asked to speak about citizen journalism, I have to spend part of my time explaining why I don't like the term, how "citizens" aren't trying to be "journalists," and how the emerging process may be so different from tradition that most journalists won't even recognize it.

So I like this comment from Stowe Boyd:

I predict a surge in hyperlocal writing and connecting -- I stop short of referring to it as 'news' or 'journalism' -- linked with various aspects of living locally. Since these various threads may not be mutually supportive, they won't add up to anything like the strange combination of things that we have in the modern newspaper, with its funnies, horoscopes, national news, local sports, classifieds, Sunday supplements, food coupons. I believe that hyperlocal = hypersocial and not just news within some zipcode, it will not just be 'about' people, it will be the means through which people connect locally, a social medium, not a news medium.


I wonder these days if hyper-local is something "newspapers" will really ever be able to do. I am starting to think that a real future for hyper-local may be with the thousands of former newspaper employees -- those who have lost their jobs already and the many more who will lose them as the mass media business model collapses. These people may be more nimble, better able to experiment, and more attuned to the social nature that Stowe Boyd notes. These ex-newspaper types and the never-were newspaper types may be more able to give people what they want out of a hyper-local experience than a newspaper, because most newspapers still seem to be interested in getting people to take what they want to give. During a recent discussion on this subject, I commented that the successful hyper-local sites may resemble more the newspapers of 50-100 years ago than they do their modern American counterparts. I cited Baristanet at one example, because it mixes news with gossip, has a chatty style that might only be found in a newspaper column, and allows people from the community to make it their own. Go there today and you'll see a bunch of things that would never appear in a newspaper, many handled in a way that a newspaper would never handle them. I agree with Stowe that there is likely to be a surge in hyper-local writing and connecting. I bet there are bunches of soon to be unemployed journalists who also hope that is true.