By Eddy Rivera
In a week, we — the Local Fourth team — will be making our final presentation in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.
It’s been a crazy several months and speaking for myself, I can remember the first few weeks of our project when we were coming up with concepts and ideas for our vision of the dissemination of hyperlocal news. I thought the 2010 Block by Block conference held at Loyola University near the end of September was a valuable event for us to go to. More than anything else, it gave us a first-hand look at how hyperlocal websites, in different markets throughout the nation, conduct their business on a day-to-day basis.
One of the main complaints about maintaining a site was figuring out to fund it, and that’s one of the things that the Local Fourth team concentrated on as we went about constructing a resource that could generate revenue. Another complaint at the Block by Block event brought up by was the issue of interactivity. Everyone knows about Facebook and Twitter, but the question became this — how do people use those social media tools efficiently to increase awareness about their sites and local communities?
By extension, what’s the best way to get everyone involved on a hyperlocal website and give them the community news that they’re looking for?
There were many more questions that were asked at Loyola, but I think the final presentation will offer a glimpse at some of the solutions we came up with when constructing our site.
On December 9, we’ll unveil our project to the public. After that, we’ll see if we’re on the right track or not.
By Eddy Rivera
Things are starting to wind down with our project at Northwestern University, and it’s a little surreal that we’re in the final stages of conceptualizing a product that we’ll be presenting to the public in the next few weeks.
I remember when it was late September and I was feverishly, along with the help of Kevin Shalvey, trying to design a blog so that we could document the progress of our team as the days passed by. In a way, curating the Local Fourth blog has been a fun experience for me because as I’ve edited and read the submissions of the posts that my fellow team members wrote, I got a good sense of how the project was progressing by reading their thoughts. It was, and still is, fascinating.
Some of the material that’s been written by our group has been phenomenal and enlightening. Hyperlocal news is still evolving, and I think it’s pretty neat that we’re doing our part in trying to make it a more effective and efficient manner for people to get the information that they desire in their respective communities. We don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we have smart and talented people that are doing everything they can to figure things out.
Read some of the posts on this website and you’ll see what I mean.
By Eddy Rivera
There’s a little over a month left before our project is completed and ready to be presented, and I’m excited about the direction we’re taking with the mockup website that our programmers have conceptualized.
The main thing we’ve noticed, as we’ve done our audience research and usability testing, is that people want to engage with something. Long gone are the days where the public reads the news, and then are unable to express their feelings or thoughts immediately in a comments section or the like. Sure, a letter to the editorial would suffice but what guarantee was there that he or she would read it, let alone reply or post it on a newspaper?
Now? Interactivity on a news platform is seen as a necessity. And I think with the mockup website that our team has put together, we can offer something that allows people to engage not only with each other but with the reporters that are publishing the story. I think that’s cool, and it allows for a real-time news stream. Getting news up-to-the-minute is something that nearly everyone has an appetite for.
The hope, at the end of the day, is that we provide a fresh take on hyperlocal news and efficiently disseminate information to a community of readers. In this day and age, it’s all about efficiency. That’s one aspect of a business model that is essential for a site like ours to survive and grow.
By Eddy Rivera
One of the most important steps in the evolution of the Local Fourth blog is to tweak the written content so that it can be far-reaching and helpful to a larger mass of people. It’s a difficult thing to achieve, but it can be done.
To accomplish our primary goal, the hope is that we can talk more about hyperlocal news and less about the development of the project. That isn’t to say there isn’t an appetite to keep track of our progress at Northwestern University, but there needs to be more than that. We need to provide more commentary on the type of hyperlocal developments we keep an eye on day-by-day. By December, when our final presentation is made in front of our peers and others, hopefully this blog is enriched with material that is everlasting and valuable.
We will continue to have videos. We will continue to have photos. We will continue to do some of the things we’ve been doing at Local Fourth, which is provide a written curation of our hyperlocal project, but at the same time, we’ll expand our efforts to touch on other topics that matter to those interested in our efforts.
At the end of the day, we’re all learning as we go. The best way to grasp the concept of hyperlocal news is to hear about it, talk about it, write about it. Begin a flow of conversation, and go from there.
By Eddy Rivera
It’s been an exciting time for Local Fourth, as our project is starting to pick up steam and — as told in our YouTube videos — we’re beginning the process of prototyping an online product that, we hope, can bring us closer to sharing hyperlocal news with the public in a more interactive manner than they’re accustomed to.
For the immediate future, we’re going to test-drive this vehicle to see what type of capabilities it has and what additional tools we’d like to implement. In technology, this is called ‘beta testing’ and that’s what our group of students (all 15 of us) will do for now. It’s an exciting time, without a doubt.
There will be bumps in the road, no question, and the next few weeks are going to be intensive, but I’m interested to see how it goes. By the end of the 10 weeks or so, the hope is that we can offer something different to the table when it comes to sharing news with a community.
I like to think that compiling and sharing news, at least with our product, will become a more collaborative effort. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, do a great job of offering an interactive medium by which people can interact with other people in real-time.
Why not do that with a hyperlocal platform? Not just by leaving comments, mind you, but by asking specific questions pertaining to a specific story and having the reporter (and other people) give you an answer. That would be cool, right?
We’ll see if we’re right.
By Eddy Rivera
I think it’d be too much to say that I love blogs because ‘love’ is a word that shouldn’t be tossed around lightly, but I do enjoy the ability to blog and document my work on a day-to-day basis.
Or in this case, “our” work at Local Fourth.
Kevin Shalvey and I are the proprietors of this site and our main goal, more than anything else, is to catalog the thoughts of our team of 15 students as we venture deeply into this hyperlocal project that we’re working on at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. When it comes to storytelling, I’ve always had the mentality of trying to utilize different ways to disseminate information to the public. Written content is fine and, more or less, should be the default manner in which we communicate to an audience on this type of platform, but I think utilizing technology like video is important as well. Photos, too.
In terms of spreading the word about the Local Fourth blog and our efforts, I think this is where Twitter becomes a powerful tool to interact with others and engage in discussions when the opportunity presents itself. Facebook, also. These are the most popular avenues for conversation, and they should be utilized to their fullest extent.
All in all, I’m excited about the direction of the project as a whole and I can’t wait to continue to document our progress as we go along. I’m only speaking for myself but I hope that Local Fourth eventually will serve as an archive of information that people can refer to somewhere down the line.
This is only the beginning.