The Guardian to contract bloggers for local news

• October 12, 2009 • Comments (4)

While Swedish national papers have moved away from local news initiatives, as local advertising markets are not ready to support costly coverage, there are examples in other countries of how to build coverage by collaborating with local bloggers. The most recent comes from the Guardian, who are looking to contract bloggers in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Media and technology reporter Mercedes Bunz reports:

“Guardian Local is a small-scale experimental approach to local newsgathering. We are focusing on three politically engaged cities and we expect to launch in early 2010,” said Emily Bell, the director of digital development at Guardian News & Media. Sarah Hartley, the Guardian local launch editor said: “While researching developments at the grassroots of community journalism, I’ve been impressed by the range and depth of coverage from local websites and blogs. This experimental project reflects both the shifting nature of journalism and the reality on the ground.”

The focus is on local political decision making, and Bunz draws a parallell to the public subsidy NPR has received in the States, pondering if this might be a model for the UK too. Another option is funding from organizations like the Knight Foundation.

In Sweden we’ve seen several local newspapers/sites collaborating with bloggers for local and hyperlocal news (one recent example is Smålandsposten’s Mitt Lammhult), but the national papers seem less prone to. The largest daily Aftonbladet still has its locally contracted bloggers on the larger cities’ pages on Bloggportalen – for instance Norrköpingsbloggen on the Norrköping page – but with the loss of the local sections on Aftonbladet.se I doubt they get much public or journalistic attention. A lot of them are no longer active.
At the same time there are cities and even whole regions who lack journalists covering them, reports Swedish journalists’ union’s paper Journalisten (unfortunately I can’t find the article available online).
It’s not a problem in itself if national media skip local coverage as long as there are local initiatives – by journalistic sites of bloggers with an interest in these issues. Where they’re lacking, though, there’s a danger that corruption spreads.

(via Jeff Jarvis)

Disclaimer: I am a former employee of Aftonbladet.se.

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