What makes news local?

Buying a newspaper in a certain area, makes news local. Watching the news on TV in a certain area, makes news local. But what happens when local news can be found online, accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world? Is this still local?

As argued by Ross Hawkes in ‘What do we mean by local?’ The idea of “community” cannot even be described as a purely geographic phenomenon, with many people having a greater empathy and connection to an online social group than to their physical neighbours.

But how many people, who have no connections with a particular area, actually interact on local news sites with comments that mean something? An online local community could still be around, only we assume that because anyone can comment, anyone does.

Interaction has inevitably become a huge part of the news production, and has clearly been a reason for raising debate over whether news can still be local.

But something we need to remember is that interaction is nothing new. Letters to the editor have been in practice for years and there is arguably little difference in the two types of communication.

Of course, writing a letter is a longer process that requires time and effort to think of content worth sending, and online comments can be a result of impulse. But the main thing they have in common is that anyone can contribute.

People are less likely to read a local paper if they are not in the area, but the point is, they still can.

Local news is about creating a community and community shouldn’t be invite only. We have arrived at a stage in journalism where discourse is created on a many to many framework and people want to be involved in the discussion. It is the readers that are arguably maintaining the buzz in journalism and this is something that should be celebrated, no matter what their postcode.

Beauty and the brain: the fashion youtube sensations

Yesterday I went to a Beauty and the Brain event in East London, which celebrated four of the top UK fashion and beauty youtube sensations.

Attendees were greeted with champagne and cupcakes and seated before a stage, where the online style gurus were inundated with questions about how they reached their success with just a laptop, camera and a passion to share, talk and write.

Once the bloggers had exhausted their wisdom, we were all treated to manicures, makeovers and a free photobooth to serve as a’memory of the day’.

No doubt these youtubers work hard, filming, editing and publishing videos every three days, and blogging throughout the week. But the extravagant event that was laid out for these girls, who began blogging for enjoyment, only made me more excited about my project.

They are extremely opinionated, have posts filled with self expression, with content ranging from personal to factual and as a result, have worked with huge brands like ASOS and one had interviewed Pixie Lott after blogging for just two years.

I managed to have many of my questions answered, which will be published in a later post. But to give you an idea of the work that they produce, here are a few examples of fashion videos from their YouTube channels.

Patricia at Brit Pop Princess

Suzi at Style Suzi

Rhiannon Ashlee at Fashion Rocks My Socks

Wande Alugo at Wande’s World

My research proposal explained

This blog started off as a place where I could debate the current readings and investigations into the impact of the online revolution. Now, I want to create some research of my own.

Not only does the issue of quality, trust and accuracy arise in online journalism on a daily basis. But also whether or not blogs that are saturated in self-expression should be treated professionally by, in particular, fashion brands and PR companies.

During an internship at New Look PR I arranged goodie bags filled with expensive gifts ranging from iPad cases to jewellery for a fashion blogger event. During the event, the fashion bloggers could pick their favourite item and talk about how they would wear it on a promotional video:

Knowing full well that most blogs start off as chatty outlets in the bloggers’ bedroom, it made me wonder, why do brands put their trust in, and rely on fashion bloggers?

Below is my project proposal for my research:

Hypothesis for research

Authority in fashion journalism has shifted from mainstream print magazines to fashion bloggers. A critical study of the new power bloggers in the fashion industry

Research questions that arise from this hypothesis

  • If journalists consistently question the ability of bloggers, why do PR companies treat them like royalty?
  • Do readers trust people that they can identify with?
  • Do readers enjoy the blur between professionalism and personalisation?
  • Do readers like to be a part of reader communities?
  • How do bloggers gain trust?
  • Is the ‘many to many’ interaction online favourable over the ‘one to many’ interaction with magazines?
  • What would be the equivalent print publication to fashion blogs targeted at a market of aged 16- 25 year olds?
  • Are fashion bloggers filling a gap in the market?
  • Do bloggers call themselves journalists?
  • How do magazine journalists view fashion bloggers?
  • Why do magazines now have blogs?

Method

  • Interviews with:

–          Fashion bloggers and youtubers

–          Magazine journalists to create a fair and balanced argument

–          Fashion PR companies who rely on bloggers to promote their brands.

–          Readers of both magazines and blogs

  • Literature review to create arguments for and against my hypothesis by debating current research
  • Vox pops
  • Surveys
  • Sparking debate on my blog

Practical project

Create my own fashion blog…

Article ideas

  • Transcripts of interviews with bloggers
  • Debates and my take on readings and findings
  • Articles of statistics from my surveys
  • Video, images, multimedia
  • Comparisons between blogs and magazines

How my project fits in with my research

  • Will help to test the idea of reader communities

–          e.g. if a interviewee blogger with loyal readers retweets my article, how many hits will I get?

  • Will open doors to interaction with other fashion bloggers so I can create more accurate research and recieve more honest answers
  • Gain an understanding of how bloggers earn trust
  • Analyse the view that bloggers have authority over magazines

How it fits in with my hypothesis

Debates from readings have shown that quality, trust and accuracy are major issues related with blogs. I want to challenge this shared belief and show that all of these things can be found within fashion blogs in order to test the idea that they have gained authority.

By blogging myself I will be able to test the truth in the view that the internet generation are more interested in “self-expression than learning about the outside world; anonymous blogs and user-generated content is deafening today’s youth to the voices of informed experts and professional journalists.” (Keen,2007)

And compare them to the opposing view that “technology has become a whole new artistic medium for self-expression” (Schwartzmann, 2011) and debate whether or not if the subject matter is creative and subjective, should self-expression be an issue?

Should professionals rely on social media?

A definitive point for modern politics was during the 2010 elections when social media dramatically changed voting trends. As discussed by Nic Newman in “Mainstream media and the role of the internet,” these were the first elections to receive unprecedented participation online.

Following the shocking stats that 90% of 18-24 year olds do not read a newspaper, political campaigns took to TV, radio and facebook in an attempt to reach younger audiences, and it worked. In particular, an increase in activity could be seen among this age group whose activity increased by 7% between 2005 and 2010.

And why wouldn’t it? At least 1 in 4 of us Brits spend more time online than we do sleeping according to a poll created by Sky Broadband. The survey revealed that 51 per cent of us are suffering from ‘e-anxiety’ if we are unable to check our emails or Facebook page for any extended period of time.

Head of Digital engagement at The Guardian, Meg Pickard, suggests that online enrichment of different views is where social media shines. She said “Where we have seen social media come alive in this campaign is where it has been able to add extra perspective and community or social discovery and fun in the case of posters and playfulness.”

Participation in influential elections and enriching an online community is enviably so important, but what are the downsides to reliance on social media?

Twitter contains information from official and unofficial sources where messages arrive in the order that they are received. Perfect for keeping up-to-date with what people are doing all around the world, but not so perfect in terms of filtering the fact from fiction.

Alfred Herminda in “Twittering the news” suggests that as a result of this, journalists should be open to gate keeping the twitter feed. He describes journalists as a “node in a complex environment between technology and society, between news and analysis between annotation and selection, between orientation and investigation.”

If social media is going to be used by influential professionals, should we expect journalists to filter and gate keep what comes up in our news feed? And if they did, would that take away from the freedom we have as individuals to express ourselves online?

I think the wealth of information available to us should remain exactly that. If we want to learn the facts it should be up to us to decipher what is worth spending our precious 9 hours of internet time giving hits to.

We wouldn’t sacrifice our precious sleep over it if this was the case..