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April 14, 2009, 9 a.m.

Lisa Williams on hyperlocal blogging

The New York Times weighed in Monday on what may seem like a curiosity to some of its print-leaning readers — hyperlocal news organizations. It goes into some detail for three of the organizations it mentions — EveryBlock, Patch, and Outside.in — but skips over the fourth, Placeblogger. So we thought it would be a good time to show you a video interview we did with Placeblogger’s founder Lisa Williams a while back about how she views the phenomenon of citizens writing about their communities without the filters of traditional media. Lisa is the founder of H2Otown, a “placeblog” about Watertown, Mass.; Placeblogger is an aggregator and directory of similar sites around the country and world.

Some of her perspectives:

— Many placeblogs often do things traditional journalism can’t do profitably — like stake out a piece of turf too small to yield much advertising. The Buckingham Herald Trib, for example, covers the Buckingham neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. At the moment, it’s covering a local elementary school’s request for “two trailers for the fifth grade [to] be placed in the school’s backyard near the playground used by the youngest children, close to the back of the school.” That’s not likely to get much coverage from local newspapers or television stations but may matter deeply to those in the neighborhood.

— Some placeblogs help create something that newspapers, acculturated to their daily news cycle, sometimes fail at: background and context. At H2Otown, the Dramatis Personae page lists in alphabetical order short bios of Watertown politicians, activists, and civil servants. Few newspaper web sites have taken advantage of the opportunity to stockpile that kind of basic information.

— Related: Starting a placeblog is often an act of discovery. Many bloggers are folks who are new to town and start a site to get to know the town better, she says. Many placeblogs are also inherently transient, as bloggers move to new homes and leave their sites behind. “It’s like a traveling show: You pitch the tent the show happens, then you [take down] the tent and go on to the next town,” she said.

POSTED     April 14, 2009, 9 a.m.
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