Next month a team of journalists in Hertfordshire will come together to produce a one-off tabloid local newspaper called Newsday: The Vocal Local. The project aims to “revitalise” local news by adopting a typical ‘hyperlocal’ approach, focusing on getting out into the community and sourcing stories from the targeted audience.
The person at the heart of the project is Kate Dobinson, a freelance journalist and English literature graduate. After working on her local newspaper she said she recognised the value of being a ‘roving reporter’ but at the same time felt time and resource limitations in local newsrooms hinders the extent to which this can take place.
So she came up with a plan which she hoped would “revitalise local news”, rounding up a team of journalists to work as reporters, designers and editors to produce a one-off publication with a focus on community.
She told Journalism.co.uk a bit more about the project:
I was working on my local newspaper and my brief from the editor was: get out. Get out and talk to people, be nosy, ask questions, don’t come back until you have stories that we’re too bogged down with deadlines to find. My method wasn’t intelligent; all I did was pop into the florist/market/car boot (sale) ask people if they had any news and proffer slightly stale hob nobs in return. With a bit of prompting (most people had great newsworthy stuff but didn’t actually know it was newsworthy) I got a bunch of yarns and ended up being kicked out of the office permanently to keep it up.
Obviously it isn’t a realistic option for a small newsroom skint on time and manpower to traipse around all day for ideas that only might pay off. But it did get me thinking that the financial strait-jacket that many poor locals are laced in is slowly hacking at the idea of the ‘roving reporter’, making it difficult to truly capitalise on a connection with the community and to find imaginative content that readers will want to buy week in week out. It made me want to experiment with and revitalise local news in my area. Finding stories on my own made me realise that I didn’t need a newsroom and a coaster to get a paper out; maybe I could do it with a few more reporters, some raw skills and a bit more coffee.
After advertising for a team of writers and designers more than 25 people signed up to be involved in the project, while West Herts College volunteered some of their media students and facilities to help with production, she said.