Posted on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 by Michael
With the title “Noise in the ‘Hood: Why is hyperlocal news so terrible?” Slate’s Mark Gimein aims to provoke with his recent article. He derides EveryBlock.com, Topix.com, Outside.in and Examiner.com, while praising AOL’s Patch. Of the former, he writes…
The reality of the sites, though, is a scary lesson in just how dreary the local news outlook is. The new local ventures are designed to deliver more news with fewer resources. In fact, they deliver less. That in itself is not a surprise, but just how much less is a shock for anyone who bothers to actually look at what they offer…
So what we see in the local news efforts is something like the creepy apocalypse of a 1950s science fiction story, in which, with the people gone, computers take over the few tasks that remain to be done in the barren landscape, hoping by algorithms to take the bits of local information that are out there and put them together into sites that can be built on the cheap.
And why this writer likes Patch…
… what distinguishes it is that Patch actually has a live local writer/editor for each local site. Think about that for a second: The sites run by media companies, such as Topix and EveryBlock, are the ones that hope to take people out of the news gathering process, while the one that’s backed by the onetime Google ad guy is putting them back in.
Mark was successful in his provocation… several of the targets in his piece responded in the comments, as well as other well-informed folks.
My view… the aggregators that Mark singles out are valiant well-moneyed efforts, but they hold little interest to me personally. While they could serve as a helpful starting point when trying to plug into a given locale, once I know good sources of information for a community, I no longer need the aggregators. At that point, I’ll just go straight to the sources themselves… most likely locally owned and operated sources. But I’m sure aggregators can be of great value to others… traveling salespeople, researchers/writers/students, tourists, etc.
Also, what’s the difference between USAToday and a funky local weekly… or a well-established (if now struggling) daily? Even when traveling, I prefer to find local newspapers over picking up USAToday. Something about the aggregators seems more like Home Depot, McDonalds and Starbucks than local hardware stores, diners and coffee shops. I realize most of America is squarely in the homogenization camp… so maybe the aggregators will do as well as the big boxes and chains.