Launching the new LocalReport.org

Welcome to the new LocalReport.org website.

This blog will host news and information about the hyperlocal project at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Think of this as a report on what we’ve learned from this experiment. We’ve tested a lot of ideas; some succeeded and some failed.

For those not familiar with the local project, it began in 2008 with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The idea was for the school to build several local community websites that would serve as venues for experimentation in digital storytelling. They are also laboratories for training our grad students in journalism.

Every student who is admitted to the UC Berkeley Journalism school spends their first semester reporting for one of the local community websites. Their schooling begins with a week-long training “boot camp” on digital media. Student learn multimedia storytelling techniques like video, audio and photography. They also learn about software editing tools like Final Cut Pro, Photoshop and Flash. Everything the students learn in this training seminar is posted online in the form of tutorials hosted by the Knight Digital Media Center. After that, students go one to work for one of our three local sites as a reporter.

In 2008, when the project began, we started out with six community sites, and now we have three active sites still running (two of the original six, and one new website.) Early on we realized that we had over-extended ourselves, and found difficulty in keeping all six news website updated with fresh content year round— a vital factor to any news website. The three websites still going strong are MissionLocal.org, OaklandNorth.net and RichmondConfidential.org.

In future posts, we will write about these community sites, and how they differ from each other. We’ll write about how types of stories that are popular amongst the sites vary greatly, how demographics play a large role in the experiments we’ve attempted, and post some of the innovations we’re developing here at Berkeley that we may be able to pass on to others who are developing similar models for news.

Here is a video we produced in 2008 a few months after the sites launched, which talks about the Ford site initiative.

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