By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
The digital dust, so to say, has settled on the abrupt closing earlier this month of a no-cost online news source that provided subscribers with the little stories often not covered by the more established print and broadcast outlets, as well as many of the big stories.
The question now is: “What, if any, media source will fill the void created?”
Of course, I’m referring to DNA Info and Gothamist, the so-called hyperlocal news organizations covering Chicago and New York.
As a subscriber the Chicago edition, I often enjoyed reading the content researched and written by the current breed of journalists. Although, at times I passed over reading stories about the new watering hole in Logan Square featuring an acclaimed mixologist or the hip deli offering house made pickles. Also, the comments section that accompanied reports often was populated by real trolls who thrived on posting unsavory thoughts that prompted distasteful back-and-forth comments rather than adding to a rational discourse.
But, as a former newsman who began his career when Chicago still had three daily papers, I was saddened that dozens of staff reporters and freelance contributors are out of work.
Many have commented on the shutdown of the news site, including former columnist Mark Konkol, who wrote a compelling opinion piece about the big impact little stories can have in a city of neighborhoods like Chicago.
Clearly the business model behind the organizations — totally supported by advertising — didn’t work in this era of seemingly unlimited free online content, images and video. (After all, there’s no charge to read The PRDude, but I would accept a beer as an honorarium should you find value or enjoyment in reading this blog.)
But from another perspective, DNA Info really was not delivering a novel product. Community newspapers, which still exist in print and online formats, cover the small stories — the community meetings, the business openings, the stories of human interest.
So where will former DNA Info readers go for hyperlocal news?
Honestly, I’m not sure. But one option is to seek out relevant and accurate information disseminated through online sites maintained by established neighborhood associations or organizations, elected officials and local chambers of commerce.
Another is to reach out to neighbors and share news. The concept actually is ancient and known as vox populi, or voice of the people.
In theory, it means the people always are correct. But then again, theories need to be proven.