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    What’s your favorite way of getting hyper-local or neighborhood news?

    by Mark Glaser
    July 23, 2007

    Lately there have been a lot of happenings in the world of hyper-local citizen journalism projects. The venture-funded Backfence series of sites crashed and burned, Pegasus News was sold to Fisher Communications, and the Washington Post launched its first hyper-local effort, LoudonExtra. The idea behind many of these sites is to capture the smaller stories that newspapers, TV and radio can’t cover because they happen at the neighborhood level. They also aim to get average citizens involved in the process of gathering and reporting what’s happening. The problem is that there is no easy business model for these sites, and they require a lot of effort in community organizing and outreach. (Check this MediaShift post on some of the lessons learned by pioneers.) But I’m wondering where you go to get your hyper-local news: a community newspaper, the coffee shop, a local blog or website or somewhere else? What would you want to see in an ideal hyper-local site covering your own neighborhood? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run a selection of them in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: email forums hyper-local journalism newspapers
    • jordon

      Mainly blogs; Philadelphia, my adopted hometown, has a vibrant community of bloggers. But I also subscribe to an RSS alert for my particular township on topix.net, though that doesn’t seem to yield much, so I’m open to suggestions.

      There are lots of good community newspapers here, but since I tend to stay away from print media–I don’t like to get that black ink all over my fingertips–I don’t read them that often.

    • alastair machray

      My Mother-in-law. She is out and about in the town where I live and tends to know everyone and everything. Her information though, is often flawed and riddled with opinion. The ideal has to be a mother-in-law one can rely upon. That means a trusted brand processing her information and giving it in a reliable form to the consumers. As traditional media producers we can still to add value to citizen journalism without taking it away from the citizens.

    • Valerie Wood-Lewis

      I love the service my husband started, FrontPorchForum.com for learning about what’s going on around town (Burlington, VT) and in my neighbors’ lives.

    • Pam MacPherson

      Front Porch Forum is innovative, new and community serving. What a contribution is being made to neighbors connecting and communicating! It’s a current day version of the “across the fence” contact in days gone by.

    • Gail Neale

      Front Porch Forum, distributed free in Burlington, Vermont, is a way of keeping both a neighborhood and a community in touch.

      It is sent on line, is timely, and kindly in approach.

    • Jeff Forward

      Front Porch Forum is a local e-mail based newsletter in and around Burlington, Vermont. We use it to share whatever is in our garage, learn who is sick in the neighborhood and find out what is happening in local politics.

      Why would an entire negihborhood need a canoe in every garage, when we can share, reduce consumption and create community by loaning our canoe to our neighbors.

      We have collected 150 sets of silverware from garage sales and tag sales and let our neighbors know through Front Porch Forum that they can borrow our bucket of silver whenever they have a large gathering. So much better than using those petroleum based plastic forks and spoons.

      We found out through Front Porch Forum when our neighbor’s son was shipped out to Iraq and were able to contribute to weekly care packages sent by another neighbor.

      We find out about everything from public hearings to lemonade stands through this service and as a school board trustee I get direct feedback from my constituents.

      We love Front Porch Forum.

    • Rob Filitor

      I use Front Porch Forum in Burlington, VT to keep in touch with my neighborhood. Whether I am looking for local garage sales, war protests, or the agenda to the last Neighborhood Planning Association meeting, Front Porch Forum is where I find it. It has really been catching on in neighborhoods all around Burlington in the last year or so.

    • Mary Esther Treat

      Burlington, VT’s Front Porch Forum has neighborhood newsletters, so you communicate with people on your own street. We organized a yard sale that involved a bunch of neighbors with the result that we all connected with our neighbors over the weekend and got better acquainted. It’s a wonderful vehicle.
      In addition, Burlington’s city wards each have a Neighborhood Planning Association which send out monthly newsletters and hold monthly meetings – another good way to make connections.

    • In addition to talking to Linda, the owner of our wonderful general store, I use the Huntington Neighborhood Forum (Front Porch Forum). It’s a terrific way to find out the name and number of a recommended plumber, electrician, tile installer, or to help someone find their lost laptop that flew off the roof of their car accidentally, or to find a home for a couple of lost dogs, and so much more.

      In days gone by we would all be visiting with our neighbors and getting news that way. That still happens here in Vermont, but the front porch forums helps the news travel faster and to a larger audience.

    • Lord Northcliff: “news is something someone wants suppressed, everything else is advertising”.

      For those of you who provide local news coverage how do you deal with this brute fact? How aggressively do you cover stories that are going to seriously upset your neighbors and friends?

    • Dave Eaton

      My recent political activities revealed a real need for building community around a lot of other issues as well. Front Porch Forum in Burlington, VT touches all communities in Chittenden County in a way that concentrates on bringing near neighbors together.

    • Jean Hopkins

      I’m so glad there’s a FrontPorchForum in my neighborhood in Williston, VT because there are so many neighborhoods here that the Williston
      newspaper can’t report on all of them. Our condo
      association newsletter only comes once a month, but the Forum can arrive every day. It’s a great
      way to meet and talk with neighbors I hardly ever see.

    • Welcome all you folks from Front Porch Forum! Glad to have you on the blog. I’m curious if some of you can explain how you first heard about it, and why you trust the information there. Also, what new features would you like to see on that service or similar ones? And finally, can Front Porch Forum or other services really call out public officials or businesses if there are problems, or are they too tied in to those local power centers?

    • Jeff Forward

      In response to your questions about Front Porch Forum.

      1.) We heard about it I think from our church.

      2.)I trust the information becasue I know most of the people who send it, they are my neighbors. This medium just gives us the chance to interact with them more.

      3.) I would like to see a ride share feature included in some fashion so we all wouldn’t need to drive in single occupancy vehicles.

      4.) I am a local official, a school board member, and the Front Porch Forum has helped me inform my constituents about issues and get feedback when I might not have otherwise.

      Front Porch Forum is a valuable tool to help create community. I hope is gets replicated throughout the country.

    • Matt

      I subscribe to a neighborhood news group that provides crime related updates. There’s no other resource I know of – except maybe Craigslist – that would provide an update on ‘what’s happening’ where I live in a ‘hyperlocal’ manner.


      Business model for local news via the Internet:

      Combine what Craigslist does with a social networking / publishing platform that allows citizens to draft and post their own news-based articles. The entire site is ad supported and contributors are compensated based on page views (or some other reliable form of measurement that assesses how may readers view a particular contributor’s article(s)). The better and more useful the article, the larger the audience that will gravitate to it. Contributors simply create an account and agree to play by the general rules set forth by the site.

    • Is there an echo in here? There oughta be for the Front Porch Forum in Burlington, VT. Not only is it a source for hyperlocal news, but it is also a record of our times a la Studs Terkel. All history is personal – isn’t that the premise. What Michael Wood-Lewis and family have created is nothing short of a perfect marriage between technology and community, from the banal to the profound – and everything in between.

    • Deborah Olsen

      During the winter I joined FrontPorch Forum here in the Burlington,VT area. It is a neighborhood specific email forum bringing me neighborhood postings by the members on topics ranging from requests for names of auto mechanics to lost pet postings. I have grown much closer to my neighbors and have a much broader understanding of their various interests. It has been helpful in numerous ways and changed my approach to being a good neighbor, rather than just living in the neighborhood.

    • Edorah Frazer

      I’m also an enthusiastic participant in my neighborhood Front Porch Forum in Charlotte, VT. I attend Town Meeting every year and serve on the Board of Civil Authority (as a Justice of the Peace), and I live in a cohousing community, so I have several other ways of staying connected to my neighbors. I heard about the Front Porch Forum from a neighbor; since then I have become an organizer for it and have posted flyers, hosted a pot luck, etc. I trust the info. posted because I know the people posting it, for the most part, or at least I know where they live! No one edits or influences what we say to each other, so “power centers” have no effect on the conversation, except to the extent to which individuals might be influenced by them through other means. So far people in our group have posted information, but I look forward to a time when the group builds strong enough relationships to ask for more substantive help from each other, rather than simply information.

    • Alan Sousie

      I am a strong advocate of Front Porch Forum. In the “ancient” past, sitting on our home’s front porch was where we got news and stayed connected to the neighborhood. In today’s virtual world, FPF is like being on the porch at home again. Many kudoes to Michael Lewis and others who have made the forum so fantastic. I encourage others like me to walk your neighborhoods and spread the word with flyers about Front Porch Forum. But most importantly, use it!!

    • Jeff Kaufman

      Mark Glaser asked (in other words) whether Front Porch Forum (frontporchforum.com) users in northern Vermont freely post their beliefs or issues or just follow along with the “main power centers”.

      Recently a pivotal vote was held in one of our local city government affiliated meetings (NPA). As if some disliked the results of the vote, the normal distribution channel for publicizing the vote results were disrupted: minutes of the meeting were not mailed out nor posted on the city website. Thank G-D for the Front Porch Forum. Readers were quickly able to learn that an 11th hour amendment to our zoning ordinance was about to be quietly passed; that our our parking availability was being reduced, and that their neighbors voted against this proposed amendment at their NPA meeting.

      The Front Porch Forum helped level the playing field, helping folks inform each other; and bringing light to activities some “local power centers” seem to wish had been kept in the dark.

      Communications have improved between neighbors and between “we the people” and our representatives.

    • i get connected locally via a moderated civic discussion email newsletter that comes out twice a week in washington dc. http://www.dcwatch.com/themail

      the moderator, gary imhoff, is outstanding.
      he is very inclusive, yet he filters out messages that are ad hominem or incoherent.

      he has been doing this for almost 10 years (as a volunteer.) incredible.

    • Lee Roberts

      As an assistant editor of the local weekly–a fourth generation, family-owned broadsheet, supported in part by the family print shop–the answer is probably obvious. I read our paper and the few others at the fringes of our coverage area. (Yes, we have a fairly large chunk of territory with no competition.)
      DSL access problems have limited the use of the web as local social networking and local news in this rural area and the paper is in the early stages of figuring out how best to use the web in a way that doesn’t cost the company money.
      Lately, I’ve been thinking about the citizen journalist. Because our budget is tight, we depend on press releases for many of our 56-ish pages in a circulation of 9,000 or so. We also have Town Correspondents, ultra-local social news writers.
      Some bloggers are under the mistaken impression that bloggers were the first citizen journalists. The Town Correspondents may not publish “what someone wants suppressed,” and though press release writers may have a vested interest, around here it’s generally vested in some community non-profit or local chapter of a bigger picture, from Rotary to watershed associations. In any case, they’ve been making local papers local for a long, long time.
      Now, I’m headed of to the FrontPorch forum to see what’s happening in Vermont.

    • Lea Terhune

      Front Porch Forum drops neighborhood news in my mailbox, and I love the close community centered aspect of it. I walk my dogs every day, and when I meet people in the neighborhood who I haven’t met yet, we can always talk about what’s on the Forum! Newcomers can get instantly connected to their neighbors, and belong in a heartbeat — or a keystroke!

    • Susan Comerford

      The Front Porch Forum is a postmodern return to citizen democracy which is nurturing the burgeoning hunger for community in our society. Feeding the mind and the soul, the neighborly interchange provides the information necessary to participate intelligently in the democratic process, develop deeper connections with those around us, and provides the support and care that meld individuals who live near one another into neighbors. This may well be the most important advance in community development strategies in decades. Communities around the country will be seeking this opportunity to strengthen their social infrastructure, to foster healthy communities, and to provide the support necessary for their citizens to live vibrant, connected live. Michael Wood Lewis deserves a MacArthur Fellowship for an idea as visionary and important as this.

    • Lori Lustberg

      I love our local Front Porch Forum. I live in Charlotte, Vermont (near Burlington). It’s been a great way to connect with neighbors.

    • Lorinda Henry

      My neighborhood Front Porch Forum is still in its baby step stages, but it is still the best way for immediate news. I also am connectec to the Volunteer section of the forum which contains selected messages that may be of wider interest than just one neighborhood. I heard about it from my daughter who works in the neighborhood of the original forum.

      I trust the news the same way I do when I meet someone in the grocery store (Vermont is still the kind of place where you ALWAYS meet someone you know at the grocery store). These are truly MY neighbors — and why would they lie to me about a lost cat, the time of the school board meeting, or wanting to borrow a garden tractor, for Pete’s sake?

      And what was that about being tied in to the local power base? You have to be kidding, right? It’s people like us who ARE the local power base, whatever that is and if we have one. How is anyone going to tie up the collective voices of thousands of reporters, each speaking from her own heart and his own home? This is the most free form of expression and the absolute best use of the internet I can think of.

    • Jeff Sherman

      OnMilwaukee.com. Daily magazine and community site.

    • Penny Okamoto

      Publicpress.org is my favorite way of getting local news. It’s great because anyone in the world can create their own hyperlocal, digital newspaper for sharing and archiving their community’s local news, events, reviews, and information. It lets users upload incident reports, news articles, community events, garage sale information, lost and found information, help wanted posts, etc. It does all craiglist stuff plus collaborative journalism. I can trust what is posted because Public Press encourages fellow citizens to review, edit, and vet the stories. So reputations for credibility are established and maintained by other journalists on the site.

      The service is very new and is currently focused in Portland, Oregon. According to the website, the site is a completely volunteer effort run amazingly by just two people with a passion for utilizing technology as a means for improving community.

      It’s great to see the true, unadulterated, democratization of journalism, peer reviewed for credibility and available to all.

    • Penny Okamoto

      Publicpress.org is my favorite way of getting local news. It’s great because anyone in the world can create their own hyperlocal, digital newspaper for sharing and archiving their community’s local news, events, reviews, and information. It lets users upload incident reports, news articles, community events, garage sale information, lost and found information, help wanted posts, etc. It does all craiglist stuff plus collaborative journalism. I can trust what is posted because Public Press encourages fellow citizens to review, edit, and vet the stories. So reputations for credibility are established and maintained by other journalists on the site.

      The service is very new and is currently focused in Portland, Oregon. According to the website, the site is a completely volunteer effort run amazingly by just two people with a passion for utilizing technology as a means for improving community.

      It’s great to see the true, unadulterated, democratization of journalism, peer reviewed for credibility and available to all.

    • jordon

      Am I the only reader of MediaShift that doesn’t live near Burlington, VT?

    • OurTown.com now has local editors in the 48 contiguous states and is on track to have 1000 editors very soon. It has launched more than 70,000 sites, including every ZIP, and is licensing dozens of new local editors for those sites daily. With local advertising, business search, calendars, and interactivity, it will be the premiere digital hyper-local site. If you are interested in becoming a http://www.OurTown.com local editor, visit the site for more info.

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