Monday, August 09, 2010

Puzzling local news media? Check these innovators

Yeah, yeah, you've heard that local is the new black when it comes to news media...but who's doing it right? Are there lessons to be learned or cool kids to keep your eye on?  Of course there are. Here are some of the thoughtful and thorough sources and strategists I follow when it comes to local newsmaking and reporting. Note how their observations share insights on how promoting and sharing are becoming equally important in news reporting:
  • Oakland owns it: Susan Mernit, founder of Oakland Local and a powerhouse in online information, just shared 10 lessons in how to make local media work, based on the experiences of the Knight-McCormick Leadership Excellence Institute, and a healthy dose of her own learned home truths. These sound basic, and they are: Miss or omit them, and your local focus will go awry.
  • California Watch goes wide: NiemanLab analyzes how California Watch chose a potent story about how some school districts were shortening the school year to cut costs and promoted it widely. In this case, NL says, the local site "treated its story’s distribution process as an integral part of the editorial process — to the extent’s hard to tell where the one ends and the other begins."
  • Engagement before editorial:  Here in Washington, DC, local news site TBD takes its turn and launches this week. In another NeimanLab analysis of 6 reasons to watch local news project TBD's launch, you'll learn that social media engagement staff were hired before reporters--not a bad thing.  And Poynter Online notes four issues it thinks TBD might answer in the new world of local news, including a new partnership model (with television), an aggressive approach to corrections and reporter transparency, a different way of working with contributing bloggers (Scienceblogs, I'm looking at you), and handling outbound links to the competition.  You can follow Steve Buttry, who manages the social media engagement for TBD on his blog -- even without the launch of TBD, he's a great read with insights based on a long career in local journalism.
  • Get your congressional district on: In a good example of a national site extending its reach locally, this Programmable Web post shares how the New York Times "shows how civic APIs should be built." From the post: "the Districts API returns not just House data, but also City Council, the State Assembly and State Senate. No more sending users to a separate site to figure out their districts, at least within New York City." Can your site be this useful?
If you have other favorites, failures and firsts to share in local news innovation, share them in the comments.

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