Anthony Moor

Exploring Media in Transformation | Transforming in Media Exploration

/ˌtrænsfərˈmeɪʃən/ n. 1: a process of change from one form to another.

Yahoo! local and 'observational journalism'

It's been just over a year since I joined Yahoo! and that's why I've maintained radio silence in this space.  We've been working like a garage startup within Yahoo! and it didn't make sense to talk about what wasn't ready for public appraisal.

Well, last week we took the wraps off the beta version of our product.  It's encouraging to see that even in its nascent form it's getting some positive feedback.  Users are telling us they like the community focus and the ability to see news, events and deals in their area.

As the local editor, I'm particularly excited about how we're seeking to deliver neighborhood news.  First, we've built an open platform.  We are inviting publishers, large or small, to provide their news feeds.  Next, we are using the community and platform we incorporated earlier in the year, Associated Content, to power a new layer of neighborhood news I call 'observational journalism.'

In truth this is a gap that isn't covered well by the news media. We are looking for the new Yahoo! Contributor Network (as Associated Content has been renamed) to provide coverage for neighbors by neighbors.  I think of it like this:  If you see it and it's new in your neighborhood, it's probably news for a neighborhood audience.  Writing can be short, conversational, authentic and 'bloggy.'  That's about what we should expect the typical citizen contributor to do - write what they see in a conversational way.

For instance, 'Why are there bags over the parking meters today?' A call to parking enforcement and you have your story.

Other examples: Every town and neighborhood has a civic and business main street.  a writer can keep tabs on what's new there. Is there a new pizzeria? New garage? Who’s the chief mechanic? What’s his story?

Writing what's changing in real estate and construction is another observational 'beat' that community contributors could take on. What’s happening with that big empty lot? Did they change the zoning somewhere from residential to commercial?  Who’s building that mansion over there? Why are they striping the sidewalk?

Information that parents need about what’s happening at neighborhood schools is another observational 'beat.'  We also know that revealing little or unknown secrets about a neighborhood and its geography can provide good fodder for contributions.

Importantly, this does not replace the professional journalist.  It augments more traditional coverage, which is deeper, issue-oriented and requires a higher level of effort and skill.