When the New York Times launched a hyperlocal news site, the Local, in Maplewood, New Jersey in early March, senior editor of Editor and Publisher Joe Strupp wrote an article discussing the site's competition with three other local news blogs, including his own, Maplewoodian.com. "Our little 23,000-population township has expanded from one non-news site to four mixing news and opinion," he said. This month Strupp reports on Maplewood news coverage again, in a longer article that appeared in E&P's print edition: "SPECIAL REPORT: New Jersey Town a Microcosm of Hyperlocal Coverage: From 'NYT' to Patch."
How has the multitude of hyperlocal online coverage affected news coverage and readership in Maplewood? Strupp said that it came as a surprise to the small town but that residents are getting used to the new offerings. "Some now ask reporters at school board meetings or community events to identify which site they represent. Others admit being overwhelmed by the new daily outlets, and remain unsure which to trust." Since the arrival of the competition, Jamie Ross, who started the township's first blog the Maplewood Online in 1997, has stepped it up with a news column and a Maplewood Dispatch.
Now township officials and major news subjects who just last year only dealt with one weekly paper now face three daily news sites' questions and editorials. How much news can be squeezed from the town? Strupp says his site recently broke a press release about police and fire layoffs, while the Local got the scoop on a new Trader Joe's. Adam Bulger, a reporter for the Maplewood Patch launched before the Local, admits to receiving less attention from township officials than the Times. "They are probably calling the New York Times back first," he says.
What about the township's print newspapers? The two publications, the Star-Ledger and the News-Record, are so far refraining from participating in the hyperlocal web frenzy in Maplewood. Managing editor of the News-Record Katherine Paster says the paper will continue its weekly printing and update the website once a week. Though she maintains that the paper has a large following of readers who enjoy the print version, she admits the new web competition keeps her newsroom on its toes.
Hyperlocal news sites are a growing trend in both Britain and the US, and some believe hyperlocal is the future of journalism as local newspapers fold and the market for community news persists. Providing not only news and announcements, hyperlocal sites also promote community discussion, as citizens can blog or comment. New Voices recently provided funding for eight US hyperlocal community projects. The case of Maplewood is interesting, as it was hit with three new news sites at once, while other US cities still do not have hyperlocal coverage beyond their print paper. Strupp does not mention competition between Patch and the Local for advertising. Will Maplewood be able to sustain all four blogs?
Source: Editor and Publisher