A news company in the Czech Republic is getting in to the coffee shop business, in order to attract people to its journalists who will be working nearby. As the New York Times explains:
The newsrooms-cum-cafes are part of a new venture in so-called hyperlocal journalism, which aims to reconnect newspapers with readers and advertisers by focusing on neighborhood concerns at a neighborhood level: think garbage collection schedules, not Group of 7 diplomacy.
Our neighborsgo staff has been doing that in their own way for some time. They've scheduled meet and greets in area Starbucks. Some have been so popular Starbucks asked them to move elsewhere. (What? Not enough $4 lattes sold?)
You might have thought that our industry would have understood this intuitively. After all, journalists know that to cover a community effecitvely, you have to be in that community. You have to live and breathe it. It's old-school, beat coverage.
But hyperlocal hysteria was a digital wave: Use the inexpensive, unlimited canvas of digital publishing to create virtual town squares; bring together citizen content with reporter-generated content and have everyone talk about it together.
Now we're realizing that if you stop there, you may not achieve your goal of helping the community connect or reap good journalism either. Backfence failed because there wasn't anyone to orchestrate the online communities that formed, and maybe because those communities didn't feel enough sense of place just interacting in a virtual landscape. Barista has prospered because there are reporters leading the Montclair, N.J. blog's community.
Our own Dallas Independent School District beatblog has helped coalesce the community of people here intensely interested in the city's schools due to the real-world oureach of our lead reporters, who have engaged sources and citizens directly in conversation day in and day out, online and off.
We're launching a host of new community blogs at The Dallas Morning News now, along with an intensive reporting effort in these communities. Here's hoping we marry our understanding of social media and shoe leather more effectively; perhaps by setting up our blog shop in the corner booth at the cafe.