What the government should do about hyperlocal news

Prominent voices in the hyperlocal debate gathered at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport today to talk about the changing landscape of news and media and, if anything, what the government should do.

Arranged by Minister for Creative Industries Siôn Simon, and chaired by CEO of GroundReport Rachel Sterne and founder of Talk About Local William Perrin, the conference – called C&binet Seminar – was a collision of talking heads about their experiences and thoughts on the state of local and national news and their plans or predictions for the future of journalism. Those in attendance included Editor-in-chief of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger, Editor of Citizen Journalism at The Huffington Post Matthew Palevsky and Paul Bradshaw from Birmingham City University’s MA in Online Journalism (see a full list of attendees below).

Sessions focused on a number of areas in the debate, introduced with a presentation from those with particular knowledge of a field, and were followed by passionate discussions with attendees drawing on their own research and experiences. A number of key issues emerged and we will be running a series of blogposts featuring key points which were raised on the following subjects:

  • The state of newspapers and the value of news
  • Hyperlocal news models
  • Council reporting – who should do it?
  • What the journalism students need to know
  • Freeing up public data
  • Libel laws for online journalism

The aim of the discussion was to draw out anything concrete which the government could do to aid or help the growth of news coverage from grassroots hyperlocal blogs to media organisations migrating online. From the outset it was accepted hyperlocal news, community websites and online coverage were positive entities and the opening debate shed light on the state of traditional and online media in the UK and US – and problems with both models. Later Rachel Sterne broke down the different types of hyperlocal sites in the US – you can see her slideshow on the GroundReport website here.

At the end of the meeting people made suggestions of possible answers to the question which had brought them together – what should the government do? Here’s Paul Bradshaw’s notes and observations and William Perrin talking about what he thinks the goverment should do when it comes to hyperlocal news.

Here are some suggestions from other attendees (see a full list on the Talk About Local post):

-Set standards for publically funded information
-Clarify legal responsibilities and liabilities of publishers of user-generated content
-Prevent councils from distorting publishing market by running ad-funded propaganda newspapers
-Require the BBC to make video news content available to grassroots publishing and not just legacy players
-Require councils to audio/video stream meetings and provide an on-demand archive
-Get more people online
-Get rid of draconian libel laws
-Subsidise local public service reporting
-Free up government data intelligently and faster
-Open arts funding to journalism
-Support grassroots digital training for active citizens
-Encourage experimentation with low overheads to low cost of failure.
-Release postcodes and other geo-data
-Find geo-location tools and standards for information
-Have clear vision and strategy for democratic renewal
-Monitor civic impact of citizen journalism
-Develop guidelines for councils to treat local bloggers like local press
-Work with schools and a valid local platform for area-wide learning of citizen journalism.
-Immunity from defamtion arising from comments
-Add journalism as an act of supported volunteering

Attendees to C&binet Seminar ’09:

  • Richard Allen (Facebook)
  • Nick Booth and Hannah Waldram (Podnosh)
  • Jon Bounds (Blogger)
  • Paul Bradshaw (Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism, Magazines and New Media at Birmingham City University)
  • Roland Bryan (Northcliffe’s Local People project)
  • Hugh Flouch (Networked Neighbourhoods)
  • Joanna Geary (The Times)
  • James Hatts (Bankside Press)
  • Sarah Hartley (The Guardian)
  • James Heath (BBC)
  • Jeff Jarvis – via Skype (Journalist)
  • Tom Loosemore (Channel 4)
  • Ruth MacKenzie (DCMS)
  • Douglas McCabe (Enders Analysis)
  • Matthew Palevsky (Huffington Post)
  • William Perrin (Talk About Local)
  • Sylwia Presley and Neha Viswanathan (Global Voices)
  • Damian Radcliffe (Ofcom)
  • Alan Rusbridger (The Guardian)
  • Siôn Simon (Minister for Creative Industries)
  • Rachel Sterne (GroundReport)
  • Julian Thompson and Michael Delvin (RSA)
  • Tom Watson (MP)