Talk About Local 2015

March 5th, 2015 by Jerome Turner in Hyperlocal | no comments

Last Saturday was the annual meetup of UK hyperlocal media practitioners, run by Talk About Local – their own writeup can be found here, and it was covered on Twitter  of course. I attended with colleague Dave Harte.

The event was held at the British Library, London, so perhaps unsurprisingly attracted a fair few local-ish hyperlocals (I resist calling them journalists, it’s not always accurate in how they frame themselves), as well as a strong Birmingham contingent, and others from further afield – overseas if you count the Isle of Wight.

The unconference format allows people to pitch sessions for discussion – I won’t bore you by going through them all but needless to say, a pretty broad range was covered, from Peaky Blinders to discussion of police relationships and the more technical aspects of coding, plugins, etc. From a personal perspective, it was great to hook up with friends at Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism again, and some faces I’d seen in Hangouts, but not in the flesh, namely the editors of Bitterne Park and Tongwynlais blogs.

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Elections
It may not be clear on the image above but the upcoming UK general election was such a hot topic that it took up one large session in the afternoon. Hyperlocals, even those that say they are apolitical and do not normally overtly cover hard ‘politics’ in their neighbourhoods, often cover local elections if for no other reason that local candidates are often very poor at canvassing and keeping potential voters informed, offline or online. Candidates are typically sent a stock list of questions and those that respond have their answers posted through the hyperlocal platform. Of course, people approach this in very different ways, as we will see in a forthcoming blog post here, and we will also be discussing this nearer the actual election in a revival of our Out Of Hours Hyperlocal online Google Hangouts (not to worry if you miss it, they’re recorded to Youtube).

Impact and engagement
I’ve attended a lot of academic conferences over the duration of my work on this project, but it’s when I meet the practitioners that I get a real sense of what they’re interested in and what is relevant to them. Anyone who’s ever considered attending an event like this, which puts them in the field they’re studying, but seeing it from another angle, go for it. I don’t approach it as data gathering, or an opportunity to interview, but a time to withdraw slightly from that interrogative standpoint and instead just chat, listen, ask people what they’d like to know from researchers, where they feel out of their depth or in the dark – my own PhD study is of audiences where practitioners will get a picture from what they see happening daily on their Facebook, Twitter or blog pages, but might not have time to go deep into how people interact, why, or what they get out of it.

‘Getting out there’ and talking to people also addresses concerns of research that it should represent value for money by being ‘impactful’. We addressed this by bringing along a selection of posters of our work, here’s Dave Harte talking someone through findings.

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