Monday, October 26, 2009

Loudoun County HyperLocal News Online – What’s Next in Loudoun Social Media and Blogs in Suburban Washington DC

Quite a lot of news, analysis and conferencing has been going on lately about the challenges of the traditional news community, both online and in print. The advances of “citizen journalism” catalyzed by Internet social media tools like Twitter and real-time search are contributing to far-reaching outcomes - from the demise of long-lived newspapers like Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News and the shuttering of the Washington Post’s hyperlocal LoudounExtra.com experiment, to interesting conversations at the recent Blogworld Expo and DC Twitter Conference regarding both opportunities and competitive animosities between journalists and bloggers competing for online “eyeballs”.

When we first moved to Loudoun County in the late 90’s, comprehensive local news was an afterthought to the large newspapers and regional broadcast media, and seemed mostly relegated to the entrenched local papers like Leesburg Today and the Loudoun Times. Of course, the citizen and business population was quite lower, too. Actual or “near real time” news was only gained via local radio and special TV reports, perhaps a radio-shack emergency band scanner, and the growing proliferation of neighborhood online chat, discussion and email groups. Very few non-personal blogs existed, but picking up the phone was still useful to contact local authorities and reporters.

Today, our “situational awareness” of local and regional events is multi-channel and immediate, and can be filtered to precise interests, sources or level of abstraction. This past Friday night, for example, large explosions permeated our neighborhood – a bit odd for this time of year, but immediately provoking both memories of a deadly natural gas explosion in 1998 and our latent, persistent homeland-security uneasiness. Finding out what was happening was pretty efficient – a few searches on Twitter, a look at the local events calendars, a call or two to the neighbors…a homecoming football game fireworks display was the culprit. “Traditional media” coverage was to be found the next day, in game reviews and search engine results…but event-to-analysis lag was at least 12 hours.

Where then, and why, should we be going to find the best “hyperlocal” news as a Loudoun County resident? Is “hyperlocal” truly relevant, particularly in this area of interstitial communities, long-ranging commuters and multi-county politic, economic and government service dependencies? Can traditional publishers of general interest news and the journalists they support coexist with or ultimately become the “Internet Media” Geoff Livingston alluded to in his prognostications for the future of social media?

Read more - at Gateway to Loudoun County

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