I can’t help but have a fondness for the Manchester Evening News. Following months of difficult changes, and the loss of many talented journalists and photographers, it’s interesting to see that they picked up the top title at the 02 Media Awards for Greater Manchester and Lancashire held at Urbis in Manchester last week.
On Friday (the day where 39 staff left the paper), we saw a presentation by an ex-MEN staffer at TEDx. Sarah Hartley is a good friend of the agency and is a new head of digital for the Guardian. She spoke openly about the future of journalism and the challenges the craft faces following the growth in hyperlocal community news sites.
Amongst other examples, Sarah flagged the East Salford Direct TV project, (billed as the regional alternative to CNN) who deliver hyperlocal TV news over the Internet, as an example of how the face of journalism is changing.
Sarah talked about how the growth in community journalism represented a major challenge to the traditional regional paper, and discussed how the two could find a way to work together.
Although there is no magic wand, Sarah’s talk highlighted an article that appeared on Talk About Local, which reviewed what a community news team would do if they were presented with a shiny new journalist to bolster their team.
I’ve copied this directly from the site, and it makes interesting reading:
add capacity – we have a great volunteer team but we are mostly busy in the day time. There are loads of things i would like followed up with some persistent phone wrangling during office hours.
bit more bite – there are quite few issues in a rough area I am loath to follow up for fear of upsetting neighbours (one of my volunteer contributors had 14 windows broken in a planning dispute by someone with an air rifle). Would be nice to have someone at arms length to tackle more difficult stuff.
court and crime reporting – in general any specialist reporting where contempt and special rules apply.
town hall stuff – there is so much guff coming out of the town hall it is hard to keep up. Volunteers just can’t go to all the meetings we have a life to lead. PitsnPots in Stoke-On-Trent demonstrates that you can have a whole site just devoted to the council. This isn’t just a capacity issue there are lots of special skills required here that I kind of assume a well trained journo will have or could bring from their parent – keeping track of big property developments, understanding the budget, declarations of interest, expenses, procurement etc
skills transfer – i can write ok but no one has ever shown me any basic tips for writing to get attention without being sensationalist and the basics of libel etc
build links – if the bins are being emptied badly in Midford as well as Little Snoring at the other end of the county is there a bigger picture from sticking the blogs together? And in general just network things together a bit.
broker relationships to syndicate local content – i like it when the paper reuses my stuff, as long as they ask, which they do. I publish it so that people can read it. But it is childish that they don’t give me a link. I don’t kid myself that they make any money from my stuff so i don’t expect to be paid. Might be nice though if the local rag makes a donation to a local charity say for young people every time they lift a piece.
It’ll be 12 months before the next Media Awards, and it’s difficult to predict what the media landscape will be like. Who knows, perhaps some of those ex-MEN staffers will turn their hand to the hyperlocal community sites and even East Salford Direct TV might be in the running . . . .