Hyperlocal journalism, sometimes called microlocal journalism, refers to coverage of events and topics on an extremely small, local scale. An example might be a website that covers a specific neighborhood or even a particular section or block of a neighborhood.
Hyperlocal journalism focuses on news that would usually not be covered by larger mainstream media outlets, which tend to follow stories of interest to a citywide, statewide or regional audience.
For instance, a hyperlocal journalism site might include an article about the local Little League baseball team, an interview with a World War II vet who lives in the neighborhood, or the sale of a home down the street.
Hyperlocal news sites have much in common with weekly community newspapers, though hyperlocal sites tend to focus on even smaller geographic areas. And while weeklies are usually printed, most hyperlocal journalism tends to be online, thus avoiding the costs associated with a printed paper. In this sense hyperlocal journalism also has much in common with citizen journalism.
Hyperlocal news sites tend to emphasize reader input and interaction more than than a typical mainstream news site. Many feature blogs and online videos created by readers. Some tap into databases from local governments to provide information on things like crime and area road construction.
Who Are Hyperlocal Journalists?
Hyperlocal journalists tend to be citizen journalists and are often, though not always, unpaid volunteers.
Some hyperlocal news sites, such as The Local, a site started by The New York Times, have experienced journalists supervise and edit work done by journalism students or local freelance writers. In a similar vein, The Times recently announced a partnership with NYU's journalism program to create a news site covering New York's East Village.
Varying Degrees of Success
Early on, hyperlocal journalism was hailed as an innovative way of bringing information to communities often ignored by local newspapers, especially at a time when many news outlets were laying off journalists and reducing coverage.
But the long-term impact of hyperlocal journalism remains to be seen. Most hyperlocal sites operate on shoestring budgets and make little money, with most revenue coming from sales of ads to local businesses that can't afford to advertise with larger mainstream news outlets.
And there have been some conspicuous failures, most notably LoudounExtra.com, started by The Washington Post in 2007 to cover Loudoun County, Va. The site, which was staffed by full-time journalists, folded just two years later. “We found that our experiment with LoudounExtra.com as a separate site was not a sustainable model,” said Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the Washington Post Co.
Critics, meanwhile, complain that sites like EveryBlock, which employ few staffers and rely heavily on content from bloggers and automated datafeeds, provide only bare-bones information with little context or detail.
All anyone can say for sure is that hyperlocal journalism is still a work in progress.