Lessons from Denmark: #1 The hyperlocal scene – We’re not so different
It seems timely that the week Martin Moore publishes this post on the difference between the US experimentation and the UK conservatism on the hyperlocal scene, I learn the UK comparison to Danish counterparts is far less terrifying – turns out we’re much the same.
This week I went to Aarhus in Denmark on invitation by Peter From Jacobsen from Update – the research institute attached to the Danish School of Journalism. The institute holds an annual conference which has been running for six years and more recently has been exploring new developments in hyperlocal journalism.
I spent day one exploring the journalism school and speaking to Peter about some of the findings from his research in regional journalism in Denmark – and the picture is similar, as far as I can gather, to the UK.
This is all based on a very glossed-over view of what’s taking place – but the general themes of uncertainty in regional newsrooms over how to respond to hyperlocal is much the same. Local papers want to enter and participate in the hyperlocal sphere but are unsure of the best route to do so without losing time and money – or the best way to engage or compete with existing sites. The feeling of local media not wanting to offend hyperlocals and vice versa is purely British.
But Danish titles are grabbing the bull by the horns and getting stuck in with hyperlocal – and some interesting projects have emerged from unique partnerships between independent publishers and overarching regional arms.
One of the most interesting from my point of view is a project Jacobsen is involved with recruiting local people as citizen reporters for very small geographical areas who will work from an embedded paid ‘professional’ reporter from regional paper which serves a bigger area. The project is in collaboration with regional newspapers.
This reporter works with eight or nine community reporters – holding bi-monthly news meetings and they then upload stories to the site.
Peter and the journalist build up a formal network of citizens who have an interest or passion driving them to learn how to report local news. Peter gives them a manual with a short ‘how to’ of local journalism online and nurtures their abilities and use of the technology over email.
Soon the stories start flowing in, with those with a regional appeal going on the the paper. Peter said the ‘citizen reporters’ tend to be 35-year-old women who are very active in the community – and all is done voluntarily with no payment.
The reporters do get awards for the best stories, and a subsidised fee for the local newspaper. When asked about the potentially problematic idea of getting local people to do journalism which could be for the paper for free – Peter told me this really isn’t an issue in Denmark – it seems only the British are the ones really worrying about the implications of community contributors submitting content out of a compassion for their community.
As for the Danish School of Journalism itself, UK lecturers would be interested to know it essentially does the same thing – but in a far cooler building, which is light, well designed and full of pot plants. The online module is still a separate part of the course and lecturers are trying to work out how to integrate it into the core skills teaching.
Tomorrow I’ll be posting a blog looking at some specific examples of hyperlocal blogs from the conference.