I’m a hyperlocal advocate and a believer that it will play some part in the journalism landscape of the future. But don’t just take my word for it, as Pete Leydon – a Staffordshire University colleague and owner of the NantwichNews site – shows a good example of how this new breed of independent outlets can punch above their weight by providing accuracy, speed and engagement…
One story this week really brought home to me WHY I spend much of my spare time (weekends, late nights and the rest!) producing and editing NantwichNews.
The story of a local man missing in Spain after going out to watch Stoke City play in Europe. By its nature, a story that has potential to shift, change and move at any minute. Speed, accuracy and clarity are needed to deliver it.
But, also, it illustrates why hyperlocal sites like Nantwichnews are best placed as a platform to deliver this and reach a wide audience without deadline, printing and distribution constraints.
It started with a tweet I spotted from a friend. I was in the middle of replying to find out more when a reader contacted me on Facebook with the same story, which came through instantly on my Blackberry. A link from her to the man’s wife, who I made friends with on Facebook and I was interviewing her within seconds. She told me the full story.
While I was interviewing her, I emailed my police contact who returned with a comment to firm up the story within five minutes. The full 300-word story was ‘Live’ in about 20 minutes from the first tip-off – with pictures from the wife’s Facebook page. Seconds later, I sent the story out on Twitter via Hootsuite. It was re-tweeted 40 times that day.
I updated the story twice more that day – with a new picture and new information. By the end of that day, the story had racked up 6,000 views… BBC Stoke contacted me for details, the local papers were way behind desperately pulling together the scraps.
The story was accurate, clear and, more importantly, gained the trust of the family. Because when she received a call from police the following day to say he had been found in a hotel, she messaged me on Facebook first. After dashing out of a meeting, I updated the story within minutes.
His family and friends have actually messaged to thank me for the coverage and for helping to get the appeal out so quickly to a massive audience.
One local newspaper printed an inaccurate story the next day which led to complaints.
It’s one of hundreds of examples up and down the country in which mainstream, larger outlets are way behind the story. It’s the old ‘turning an oil tanker around’ analogy.
And it’s one of the many reasons why readers/audiences are leaving newspapers in their droves and turning to local sites they can trust.