hyperlocal news

police three times a day, mapping it and sharing the information live on Twitter and the website. Hatts picked up 15,000 new Twitter followers as well as new subscribers. They take monthly PayPal pledges based around the London living wage (£10.20 an hour), and also use Patreon, a US site that allows people to become ‘patrons’ of ‘creatives’ by sending cash donations each month. Hatts’ presentation followed a sombre keynote speech on ‘Grenfell and the lost art of reporting: making news happen before it happens’ by Grant Feller, former local Kensington reporter, national newspaper journalist, now storyteller and media consultant. Feller addressed the ‘democratic deficit’. He claimed the

tragedy of the Grenfell fire might never have happened had there been a vibrant local paper reporting on the residents’ safety concerns, calling the authorities to account – and

pressuring them to take action. Although Grenfell residents had warned the council of the dangers, they were ignored. Recalling his cub reporter days 20 years ago when local reporters ‘created news’ about possible future events by doggedly ploughing through turgid council agendas and committee minutes, Feller urged hyperlocals to pick up the torch of investigative journalism. Some have been doing that. Among those ‘holding local

power to account’ is the Hackney Citizen newspaper and website (, a thorn in the flesh of Hackney Council since its launch 10 years ago because of its relentless scrutiny of some of the council’s policies. The council’s attempt to ban rough sleepers from the borough was withdrawn following Citizen stories and a petition signed by 80,000 people. It is operated by a team of professional news journalists,

volunteer feature writers, a designer and sales team. Founding editor Keith Magnum is proud of its achievements, including being commended for ‘excellent design with quality content and first-class printing’ at last year’s News Awards. The Citizen is one of only four community news publishers

to have been awarded a contract with the BBC’s Local Democracy Partnership scheme. Encouragement and advice at the conference also came from speakers ranging from Fiona Davidson, founder and editor of The Ferret, who is working with the NUJ to improve opportunities for women and under-represented groups in Scotland, to a panel of pioneering hyperlocal publishers explaining ‘why print is not dead’. Rich Coulter of The Voice Network, Richard Gurner of The Caerphilly Observer, James Cracknell of the Waltham Forest Echo and Jeremy Morton of South Leeds Life have all found advertisers and readers still like print. Morton said: “People believe words on paper more than they do on screen.” The conference organisers agreed the issue of ‘fake news’

had to be on the programme. Insights into this were given by Claire Wardle, research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center (an open-access site that provides practical and ethical guidance on how to find, verify and publish content sourced from social media), and executive director of First Draft News. Tips were offered by Matt Cooke of Google Data Labs on digital story-telling using newsgathering tools from conference sponsors Google News Lab. Megan Lucero, director of The Bureau Local, believes the future

of investigative and community journalism is ‘collaboration’. Husband and wife Yusuf and Sumaiya Omar, founders of Hashtag Our Stories, believe it’s digital storytelling. They travel the globe training people with ‘no voice’, including children, to tell their stories on social media platforms Instagram and Snapchat. Sometimes they are given smartphones and other equipment by

suppliers, said Yusuf. But there was no mention of payment for these stories.

Pam Morton, the NUJ’s organiser for freelances and Wales,

said: “The conference highlighted the many different ways in which journalists, particularly freelances, are now working, and their impact on journalism and democratic accountability. “NUJ members are filling the gap left by severe cuts and closure of local newspapers and, at the union’s Delegate Meeting in April, we shall be looking at more research on the different models of working, and advice and support for journalists.”

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