I was at the “What next for community journalism?” event at Cardiff University yesterday, held under the auspices of so many good and clever people and organisations.
I’ll wait until the presentations are posted online, before giving a broader overview of my impressions – my memory was never my strongest point and I wouldn’t want to misrepresent in the detail of anything.
In any case, there was such a wealth of information over the various sessions held during the day that only those of us whose heads are really screwed on journalistically tight would be capable of already making sense of everything that was said.
What I would like to do in this post, however, is simply list a few points which stick even in my colander of a brain. Things I’ve taken away with me, and have had lovely opportunity to mull over.
- Firstly, the whole event was a safe harbour for ships and boats various – some weathering storms of their own making; some surviving ingeniously; some notable cases clearly making strong business cases for becoming almost industrial examples to be broadly and enthusiastically replicated.
- Whilst there was voiced on a couple of occasions the sensation that parts of hyperlocal1, mainly the thorny bits relating to money, were in “groundhog day” mode – with well-meaning conferences praising and bemoaning in equal parts the progress, and lack of, perceived since previous occasions, and thus eternally on and on into the ever-receding future – there was also, nevertheless, a sense of vibrancy and excitement about the possibilities, pluralities, multiplicities and opportunities. Definitely a constructive cauldron of primeval experimentation and practice.
- There was plenty of reflective study on show (more here). What was so hopeful about the event, its processes and procedures was the obvious desire to combine an analytical rigour based on the careful collation of data with an intuitive, even as still measured, looking into the crystal ballsinesses of so many usefully hardened, but not disillusioned, practitioners.
For there was a lot of that about too: inherent and pleasingly (for me) altruistic instincts and behaviours combined with hard-nosed entrepreneurial impulses and attitudes. And whilst some years ago I might have baulked at the need to contemplate such a mix, the truth of the matter is that hyperlocal and mainstream journalistic media both are condemned – if that’s really the right word – to converge, hopefully productively too, at some time in the future. Whilst the downsizing of existing media is a truly painful process, the upsizing of hyperlocal – where it remains true to its (grass)roots – is really pleasing when grandly, properly and creatively witnessed. And one thing which, as the inveterate blogger I’ve been over the past decade, I do not want hyperlocal to repeat is the “here’s some brownie points for your CV” approach to getting content from the initially willing, ultimately naively uninitiated.
So we need to talk about money. Not empire-building necessarily, though some entrepreneurs in the field clearly wonder if this is possible (I’ve even had similar thoughts myself). In an ultimate analysis, maybe no more than a decent and dignified work-life balance. But either way, money does have to enter the frame. However altruistic we feel, we can no longer deny this must be so.
And perhaps, if it can do so healthily, managing at least humanly even if not easily our hypocrisy, we will all be much better off for it, too.
Finally, below, you can find the PowerPoint I was very kindly invited to present at the conference. If it strikes you as at all enigmatic, perhaps there are too many unexplained assumptions I’ve developed over the past few months – and too little time and space to really unpack them sufficiently. But if its enigmatic nature intrigues you positively enough, and you feel you’d like to know more2, please do get in touch with me via email on email@example.com or on Twitter @zebrared/@chestertweet. I’d be delighted to engage with you via any of these methods, and try and unspool more productively what I believe we could achieve with such ideas.
In the meantime, happy hunting – wherever your hyperlocal takes you! And till the next post …
(Oh, and whilst the above does indeed look like the much-treasured truffle from my brief overview of hyperlocal customised search, it’s actually a very Welsh Scotch egg … or, at least, so I was led to believe!)
In itself, the word “hyperlocal” is finding itself more and more under a gently critical microscope as people like myself wonder if it will be able to encompass the growing needs for a much broader democratic regeneration. ↩
Update to this post, 11/09/2015: Tony Hirst, @psychemedia, has today published a fantastic virtual workshop on setting up your very own hyperlocal customised search. Some of what he has been able to do online I wanted to do in a workshop after my presentation, but time and other constraints made this impossible. However, Tony has also offered to set up his own training sessions, if there is interest out there to develop these ideas and approaches. I, myself, would definitely sign up. So next steps have to be: dates, how and where! 🙂 ↩