Ned Berke, editor of the Sheepshead Bites site -- which provides comprehensive local news for the neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay -- has a great manifesto about the delights and rewards of making hyperlocal news.
I believe local journalism, local government and local economies are the linchpins of a vibrant, healthy nation. For decades, as conglomerates swallowed up independent news outlets across the nation (our own local paper, Bay News, is owned by News Corp. – the same company that owns Fox News and the New York Post, for example), local coverage was watered down because community reporting is expensive, and stockholders want dividends. And because corporations can view employees as easily replaceable cogs, one reporter who lives in the community and has covered it for decades is just as valuable as one straight out of journalism school three states over.
But community reporting requires more than cogs. It requires more than an academic familiarity of those it covers. What meaningful local reporting requires is a personal investment. If the reporter doesn’t stand to benefit from a healthy community, his coverage will serve to dramatize and exacerbate problems rather than solve them.
When Sheepshead Bites ventures to cover the community, we do it because we’re neighbors. Our writers live here. Our business is based here. And we endeavor to support and uplift our neighbors for all of our benefit.
Our reporting sees results. When we complain about garbage, it gets cleaned up. When we question politicians, they endeavor to meet our concerns. When we cry to the city that Sheepshead deserves more – well, we’re still waiting to see about that one. This alone makes the site a worthwhile exercise, because, to me, the significance of one’s aspirations is only measurable by how much it helps others. Not to get preachy, but a preacher’s quote is especially applicable here: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” (That’d be Martin Luther King, Jr., by the way.)
For more top-notch, independent hyper-local news see John McDaid's blog on Portsmouth, RI. It's clear that this sort of reporting makes a real, on the ground difference for the communities it serves.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.