The worthy duty of selling newspapers vs the problem of using linkbait

The Chester Chronicle posted this tweet this morning:


I get the impression it’s generated a bit of a hullabaloo:


And whilst I found myself suggesting:


I also added:


It’s a problem, of course, which all of us interested in hyperlocal’s progress have had to face – and will have to face – as the beast establishes itself further.

The issue is essentially as follows: hyperlocal activities – their journalistic side for sure – are tied very closely into hyperlocal interests: small- and medium-sized businesses, for example; local politics and particularly local needs and preoccupations; real livelihoods, often struggling to make ends meet.

Such organisations or hubs of communication may even be sustained, directly or indirectly, by some of the aforementioned parties.

It’s in everyone’s interests, then, for any such community to put forwards its best foot – for the outside, potentially investing world to say: “Yes, this is a place we’d love to visit, get to know and, ultimately, generate business for.”

The all-too-easy tendency of hyperlocal and/or that more traditional mainstream media nevertheless tightly associated with its local groups of power – councillors, business leaders, community organisations, church associations, charities etc – is to mediate the truth in terms of what is judged beneficial for the surface and face it must present to that all-important world of potential and continuing investment.

However, a community is not just what it wants the outside world to perceive: there must exist – if not for any other reason but long-term economic efficiency and, kind of, intellectual and cultural hygiene – an attachment to discovering both the gems and the fool’s gold of any community, never mind hyperlocal.

When do positive slants and angles on the news become inaccurate selfies? What are the implications of such selfies for the long-term honesty and integrity of a community’s sense of itself? When should the downsides – the darker sides – of the truths we all contain intervene in how we discuss our own societies?

My impression today, with this week’s Chester Chronicle frontpage, is that they continue to pursue the worthy duty of selling newspapers – newspapers which rightly, necessarily and democratically need to be newspapers of record – but have this week used the paper equivalent of linkbait to achieve their laudable business goals.

As I pointed out earlier on:


It comes back to reaching out to audiences in a media world which more and more resorts to making us kneejerk, in order that we might click on that solitary link amongst thousands. But society doesn’t work – democracy long-term is degraded – if we base all our discourse on a downward spiral towards scandalous action and reaction.

Chester may have a problem in Northgate Street; I’m sure the stats tell a useful story. And not telling the story in time would mean Chester, somewhere down the line, would end up with a far worse story.

But in raising the issue by rather aggressively polarising the debate, we don’t help our community understand properly at all how damaging selfie-journalism and possibly selfie-hyperlocal – its instincts and its behaviours – could end up being for the future health of our culture, economy, information and politics.

For the alternative to linkbait shouldn’t be a perpetual smile – especially in a series of communities as complex as Chester’s, where some people live very comfortable lives and others live quite the opposite.

But, equally, the alternative to a perpetual smile shouldn’t be the kind of communication which causes us to shoot the messenger.



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