Has the time come for a hyperlocal representative body?

Should the hyperlocal sector have a representative body? If so, what would it do?

Discussions for the day…

That’s the crux of the issue which saw representatives from independent news publish, academics, the BBC and others gather today at a Centre for Community Journalism event held at Cardiff University.

The consultation follows on from various discussions, online debates and a survey carried out by the Centre to tease out the issues.

On the face of it, there would seem to be strong support for the idea of such an organisation – afterall, 94.6% of those who were surveyed thought it would be a good idea. However, there were only 56 respondents in the survey so, in a vast ‘sector’ which ranges from people who publish parish newsletters to those who make a living and employ staff in professional publishing, there are undoubtedly many voices as yet unheard.

On a personal level I remain open-minded about the proposal. Only last week, I was asked by someone starting out with a publishing venture if there was such a group, and it’s a question I often heard when working at Talk About Local. It would appear on that anecdotal evidence alone there’s a desire, at some level, for some sort of collective action.

On the other hand, many have come at this question before and nothing has stuck despite good intentions and technological savvy – remember the Hyperlocal Alliance anyone? In a world of self-organising forces, it seems somewhat counter-intuitive and therefore the ultimate purpose of any such group would have to be carefully framed in order to be both inclusive while also being credible enough to bring weight to bear in a very disparate environment across the entire UK. Is that a feasible ambition? Love to hear your thoughts on that below……………..

Those convening today’s event were at pains to ensure that any move isn’t an attempt to force its way out from under the auspices of the Community Journalism Centre, but, they urge, the exact structure, governance and make-up should be drawn from, and run by, practitioners.

I’ve pasted my random notes from the session in full below covering the main headings discussed.

The next stage for this consultation is for the Centre for Community Journalism to produce a two page brief for circulation and comment. That could well result in a funding bid being submitted to a body eg. Lottery in order to scope out the exact structure and remit for the organisation going forward.

I will update this blog with any further information as it emerges and would recommend keeping tabs on the @c4cj Twitterstream too.

Survey
56 hyperlocals responded

94.6% wanted body of representation

Few of the findings (full slide deck below)
11% interested in collective ad selling
advocacy 11%
press agency 9.8%
expert advice call centre 7.5%

http://www.slideshare.net/C4CJ/c4cjconsultation
Primary purpose for organisation
Is ‘hyperlocal’ the correct term? Maybe independent community news network would be better?
Centre for Community Journalism in a position to help as has funding until 2018 including office premises and staff.
Big Lottery funding?
Could include a network of academics who regularly submit to gov calls and white papers but don’t forsee a paid lobbyist in Westminster
Instead, a lower level of lobbying. national assemblies, bbc etc.
“unless it comes from the industry, it’s on shaky ground to start with” – wise words from Simon Perry (@OntheWight)
University has some experience of not-for-profits as well

Membership criteria
Should there be two tiers/columns? – everyone with an interest and then commercially motivated organisations
A supporter tier? Supporter or practitioner? practitioner members would get extras eg. access to forum where topics can be discussed
Looking at retrieving funding to undertake scoping work into suitable constitutions
2 page scoping document to be produced for people to react to
Free-to-join membership
Needs to be clear it’s uk wide
Funding to come from other sources
Training for professionalisation
News and information includes features/soft
Advertising – scoping work needed to establish metrics, whether human or technical solutions, quality issues.
Mentoring scheme/buddy system?

Events
smaller/regional events and big national conferences

Primary function
creating more jobs for journalists and better journalism
training
lobbying
awareness/outreach
statement of intent for sector – what is the sector?
campaigning

What could it achieve?
sense of belonging/community
changes in law and processes eg. commissioning of statutory notices
bring in more money to the sector
showcase for innovation and experimental business models
seed funding which could help both business and society

How would it operate?
steering group of practitioners?
time-limited terms eg. 2 years?
quarterly?
directors travel expenses funded?
similar to Community Media Association?
will go to look at other orgs, including those outside of media, for the scoping

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