Mobile Journalists Deliver Hyper-Local Coverage

by Dan Blank on December 4, 2006

The Fort Myers News-Press is utilizing mobile journalists to focus on hyper-local news coverage:

“They spend their time on the road looking for stories, filing several a day for the newspaper’s Web site, and often for the print edition, too. Their guiding principle: A constantly updated stream of intensely local, fresh Web content — regardless of its traditional news value — is key to building online and newspaper readership.”

This is all part of Gannett’s experiment to retake marketshare eroded by the web.

“The chain’s papers are redirecting their newsrooms to focus on the Web first, paper second. Papers are slashing national and foreign coverage and beefing up “hyper-local,” street-by-street news. They are creating reader-searchable databases on traffic flows and school class sizes. Web sites are fed with reader-generated content, such as pictures of their kids with Santa. In short, Gannett — at its 90 papers, including USA Today — is trying everything it can think of to create Web sites that will attract more readers.”

Among the changes going on at The Fort Myers News-Press:

  • Hiring mobile journalists and the expectation that regular journalists will include mobile reporting in their work.
  • Crowdsourcing via the help of dozens of reader experts.
  • The appointment of a managing editor in charge of “audience building” who… monitors Web traffic to make sure popular stories stay high on the page.
  • Online message boards that allow readers to post anything from lost-pet notices to profanity
  • Reporters to become a part of the sales process.

It seems that in the race to become more “relevant,” an organization like this can confuse “fresh news” with frequent posts of articles with little journalistic merit:

“Some staffers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, worry that the zeal to feed the Web with fresh material has led to publishing “fluff” in addition to news.”

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