Guest Editor slot by Jamie Summerfield – Editor of the popular local blog website A Little Bit of Stone
How do you find out what’s going on in your community? Let’s be honest, we all like to know what’s going on where we live. It helps us to feel connected to our community and the people around us.
Perhaps you buy the local paper or listen to a local radio station. But maybe that isn’t ‘local’ enough.
More and more people are producing their local news and information for themselves. They’re sharing stories, community information, photos, video and more through local websites and other digital spaces.
It’s a real DIY ethos driven by the explosion in free-to-use digital publishing tools. It’s easier than ever to create and share your own content – community pages on Facebook; Twitter accounts; sharing video on YouTube and Vimeo; sharing photos using Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest; creating a blog using platforms like WordPress or Tumblr. The list goes on and on.
I’m really interested in ‘hyperlocal’ websites [basically a website for a particular local area] and how they connect communities.
Since 2010 I’ve run a website called A Little Bit of Stone for the town of Stone. There are plenty more of them around. If you live in Lichfield, you may have seen Lichfield Live; or Connect Cannock if you’re in Cannock Chase. There are sites in Endon, Leek, Stafford, Barlaston, Milwich, Tamworth, Burntwood, Brownhills, across Stoke-on-Trent and many other Staffordshire places.
Some are like a traditional newspaper; others more like a personal blog; some are online forums. But they all have a common end goal (deliberate or not) – to share stories and information and to connect people to their community.
Community websites are a growing area and one that’s attracting attention.
There’s a major study of hyperlocal news at Birmingham City University – the Creative Citizens project; there’s a Centre for Community Journalism at Cardiff University; Staffordshire University is creating a number of hyperlocal websites in Stoke-on-Trent in partnership with local communities (a project I’m involved with). Funding is now available to expand and embed this very local form of information gathering and sharing – Nesta currently has a £2.5 million funding project to build on a ‘Destination Local’ research project. National organisations like ‘Talk About Local’ are helping local communities to create their own digital platforms.
Hyperlocal is becoming an established part of the news and media landscape and its social benefits are beginning to emerge. Its effect is both functional – informing people of what’s going on where and when – but also emotional, helping people to connect to their local communities.
If this sounds interesting to you, you should find out if there’s a hyperlocal website or other digital presence in your area. There’s a useful map at www.openlylocal.com/hyperlocal_sites where you can search by postcode. Search Facebook for community pages or Twitter for local accounts. Hyperlocal websites are more often than not run by volunteers and they are always looking for people to get involved.
And if there isn’t one in your community, why not start one? If you need any help or advice, you can mail me at email@example.com
What are the benefits of a little bit of Stone?
It has so many benefits, it re-unites pets and owners, helps people find reliable and trustworthy workmen and local companies and businesses, keeps everyone up to date with activities in the town and surrounding areas, weather / road / safety updates, helps local companies/ shops to advertise to keep it local, keeps us all in touch with what is important to us ……….and much more!
It’s a first class community site- wouldn’t be without it.
I think every town should have one! It brings a sense of community spirit to the digital world. I’d be lost without it and wouldn’t have a clue what was going on! Well done and thank you ALBOS.
I agree with all the above – a great asset to the town. It makes me very proud to live in Stone – epitomised by the work this site does. I have come to rely on it as the first port of call for so many things – up to date important local news, opinions of local residents about local matters, details of events, found a window cleaner, advertised my lost cat (found!) wonderful photographs and lots, lots more.