[Going Local] News, City Blogs and DailiesPosted: February 21, 2010
I’ve gotten a little bit of an inside look at the workings of a metropolitan city blog in the past few days, thanks to a newly earned contributor status with the District’s We Love DC. The assist for the experience goes to friend and the site’s editor Tom Bridge, and his insights on the way his site tells the story of local news have been invaluable. Specifically, we recently got to talking about the different role each type of local online media could and should play when it comes to spreading the word of news.
In a month of more bad nicknames for blizzards than the Potomac region could imagine, there was a lion’s share of breaking news ranging from school closings, road statuses, coping citizens and power outages that needed to go around. For example, over the six business days with partial or complete federal government closings between February 5 and February 12, someone had to get the word out so OPM’s site could function. On those six days, both DCist (the other top DC online-only outlet and part of the Gothamist network) and We Love DC were reporting the news as soon as they got word. And, as Tom relayed to me, all that snow and breaking news helped his site to one of its most impressive traffic months ever; I’m sure the same can be safely assumed for DCist’s traffic as well.
So, if those of us in the metro region are trusting these sources to break news, what’s the role of the Washington Post in telling the same story? Given leaner operations and fewer editorial levels, the story rolls a lot quicker to the blog roll than the presses of the lumbering traditional power. While some may have ventured to the newspaper’s site, the story was likely far behind compared to the city blogs or even microbloggers throughout the city on Twitter. The knowledge that these sites would break the news is likely what brought as many to the sites as it did, even if it was only by a few minutes, but also the layout and stream of the blogging engine is a natural way to get the user the top-most information.
The counter argument here is going to be blogger/citizen journalism responsibility – but how much more fact checking do the bloggers need to do? A local news blog that bills itself as that has much to lose for being called out on factual errors, and thinking they fire at will with stories is a surface level argument. Their reputation is based on reliability, so they absolutely act with care; however, when it comes to breaking news, that early source, with the right photo or evidence, may not need corroboration. Why hold?
Breaking news is cheap; investigative journalism and understanding the situation around those stories is the expensive part and the one that is worthy of investment. The smartest partnership would be treating the local blog community (here in D.C., there’s a substantial one, going well beyond those top two) as an editorial board. Let those authors get the stories up; value the large, commenting audience to see what locals plug into the most; and then build out the investigative operation in a true, local way.
(cc) via flickr user ‘Ghost_Bear’