I just returned home from Michigan, where I’ve been the last day or so as part of a project I’ve begun on hyperlocal news. The idea is to get editors of small newspapers around the country to give me an assignment, allowing me to then immerse myself in an issue the people of Town X care about. Doing this, in theory, should accomplish two things: (1) to take a look at something that’s not necessarily important enough to warrant a place in the regional or national news, but that suggests something larger about the country as a whole; (2) to examine how newspapers, as hyperlocal sites like Patch spring up, are adapting (or not adapting) to cover such issues.
This trip to Battle Creek was the prototype, shall we say, for the project. The paper of record there, the Battle Creek Enquirer, was kind enough to show interest in the hare-brained project and toss me a story — an Above the Influence day camp for teens sponsored by the local Substance Abuse Council. The resulting feature can be found here: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20110719/NEWS01/107190308/Students-promote-living-above-influence
It was super interesting to meet such passionate kids, especially considering it is a subject most kids aren’t passionate about (I know I certainly was not). This made an excellent starting point for this still-in-the-early-going project because it forced an outsider of the town — me — to consider not just something a few people find important, but to look at an unfamiliar place and maybe consider why such an issue would be important to them.
Afterward, I was able to stop by the Enquirer’s newsroom and meet its captain — managing editor Eric Greene. He was exceptionally nice, and was patient with me as I prodded him with — in some cases — uninteresting questions about how his newspaper functions, and some about The Detroit Free Press — a paper he has no part in. All in all, a very good experience.
I’m not sure what’s next for this traveling journalism project, but I expect I’ll have more info to come soon for the five people who would be interested in knowing. That’s all for now, though, folks.