Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blog Stories 2008: #5 - The Rise Of The Hyperlocal

Long have the internet cognoscenti predicted that blogs would turn inward. The theory held that as traditional media scaled back on local coverage, blogs would fill the niche.

At their most honest, blogs are reflections of an authors immediate surroundings. For this reason, local blogs have been around since blogs have been around. In Georgia, the venerable (in internet terms) Cable and Tweed and Drive A Faster Car cover music, Atlanta Metblog covers a wide range of happenings across the city and the ur-hyperlocal Dora-blog covers the strange turns in that tiny hamlet. But it was the emergence in 2008 of two hyperlocal blogs, ironically in the same place, which may have fulfilled the visionaries early predictions.

DecaturMetro and inDecatur cover the hip little city like no other.

At a time when the AJC was removing resources from local burgs, Decatur was emerging from a haze to once again blossom as a community. The MARTA station was finally finished. The square, once a lonely place except for now-ancient Eddie's Attic, buzzed with activity. Residents roamed, street characters did their thing, beer flowed and bands played. The only thing missing was a place to research all these wonderful and strange goings-on.

On September 9-26-07, it all began with "Welcome To Blogging Decatur!". The first post questioned whether Decatur High School should go charter and provided the time and place where locals could attend hearings. Later, the site would switch its label to DecaturMetro and expanded its coverage to everything from crime reports to local restaurant discounts. But it was all Decatur all the time.

Around the same time that DecaturMetro began its meanderings around the square, inDecatur also emerged. Although sometimes the two overlapped and inDecatur would occasionally range into commentary beyond the borders of the town, if it wasn't noted by these two it probably didn't happen.

In November 2008, DecaturMetro and inDecatur shared Atlanta Magazine's Best of Atlanta award for Best Neighborhood News.

The ground broken by the two Decatur hyperlocals and their predecessors continues to be turned. Dekalb Officers takes a cynical look at the shenanigans in the Dekalb PD. Dekalb County School Watch focuses on the education system in the county. Heneghan's Dunwoody Blog (originally a hyperlocal in the vein of the two Decatur blogs) documents the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a nascent city.

The revolution might be televised, but it damn sure will be local.

CORRECTION: Small correction. ACE the owner of inDecatur pointed out that technically his spot launched on 8-6-07 or almost two months before neighbor DecaturMetro. The story was published based on the fact that his front page listed archives only going back to March 2008. I should have dug a little deeper. Twice as many corrections in the past two days as the entire year! I need to beat my research assistant. Wait a minute...


Anonymous said...

#5 is a great post.

To be fair, DeKalb County School Watch, and to a lesser extent,
DeKalb Officers Speak and Heneghan's Dunwoody Blog, were offshoots of the "Comments" section for GoDeKalb.com. For a while, GoDeKalb was scooping the AJC on news story after news story. And the GDK "Comments" section was the single best place to rant, rave, scream about the shenanigans of a county gov't and school system, for a county with well over 700,000 residents, and the AJC was barely covering the county. The number of news stroies on GDK has dropped, but it really had a huge effect.

Pretty much every upper level county administrator, upper level school system administrator, and many state rep's and state senators was reading it daily. Heck, for a while, Jill Chambers and Mike Jacobs were posting themselves or replying to topics brought up in posts. Vernon Jones would address at commission meetings topics brought up on GDK.

It created an active, vibrant community, and even helped cement CEO elect Burrell Ellis' reputation as being outside the inner circle, over perceived insider Stan Watson.

griftdrift said...

You're right. Go Dekalb is a great site and I should visit it more often. Here's the problem. No feed. If a place doesn't provide RSS, I tend to not pay attention.

But I highly recommend everyone visit GoDekalb.


Not anyone said...

Will the presidential election be number one?

Anonymous said...

I agree that GoDeKalb used to be a great source for local news...but not anymore. I used to check in everyday. I never go over there now.

What happened? I know there was a brief attempt to move over to a more video-centric site, with efforts like "Decatur Now" and "Green Atlanta", but then it just kind of fizzled out.

Anonymous said...

GoDeKalb.com wasn't generating any revenue, and Jonathan Greenhill, who helped start the local blog craze here, has to pay the bills. He's now focusing on BroadcastAtlanta.com. Greenhill made GoDeKalb required reading by every elected official in DeKalb. He doesn't get the credit he deserves. Really hoping he can find a way to keep involved and still make a little dough.

I wonder if years and years from now, people like Greenhill, grift, Rusty, Doug Monroe, and all the others, will get prop's for all they've done here in metro ATL to make blogs an invaluable part of everyday life.