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Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know

One of the many things that makes blogging and other forms of online personal expression compelling is that they are still developing; we don’t know exactly what they are or how to best use them yet. And just when you think you’ve got it nailed, things change. Again. As they will next week. And next month.

What we do know for sure is that mainstream newspapers are struggling for relevance in a world of instant email news alerts and 24/7 television news channels. I’ve often caught myself skimming The New York Times in the morning muttering, “yeah, yeah, tell me something I don’t already know.”

But the paradox of all this available news is that it is easier to find out about an abducted child or a train wreck 2000 miles away than it is to find out what the local school board is doing.

Bloggers have been taking up the slack in local reporting all over the U.S. and even the world in what Lisa Williams calls placeblogs:

“Placeblogs are about the lived experience of the place, while newspapers are about the tiny slice of that experience that is news. Placeblogs do contain and sometimes even break news, but within a much broader spectrum of lived experience that wouldn't be appropriate in a newspaper. Think: ‘Stymied by Soggy Crust, East Side Man Switches Pizza Alliance.’ Sounds dumb when put in newspaperese, but where-to-eat posts are the bread and butter of a decent placeblog.”

Now Lisa, who placeblogs about her hometown at h2otown, has launched Placeblogger where you can find blogs that report on your town, read the local news and add placeblogs you know of to the database.

Placeblogs are a common-enough phenomenon now that even The New York Times wrote about them on Sunday quoting one of the owners of a New Jersey placeblog, Barista:

“There’s a hunger for people wanting to know what’s going on, and that’s not being met by the local paper,” Ms. George said. “The paper has a site, but it’s not updated as frequently, and it’s not as interactive. We publish stories, and all the readers can comment.”

So what does this have to do with elders? One: it’s a terrific way to keep up with not just your current home town, but the cities and towns you may have left behind but are still curious about - a modern-day Mt. Idey News.

Two: it’s an excellent way to participate in chronicling the events of your place. Besides reporting, elders bring the perspective of time and history to current events, not to mention experience and judgment. This is a way to make a real contribution to your community that can’t be done with traditional newspapers.

Three: if you can’t find a placeblog listed for your town at Lisa’s new site, consider starting one yourself. Tell your neighbors and fellow citizens something they don’t already know about where they live.

Comments

Fascinating! I've added it to my list of favorites. I've been reading "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found" and discovered a Place Blog about Mumbai (Bombay) right off the bat.

Through my book blog, I've discovered readers all over the world, and they make me curious about their "places." Thanks for such a timely link.

Thank you. This is so great to be able to keep your finger on the pulse of places you have loved and left.

Fascinating!! Thanks so much for the eye opener.

Fascinating!! Thanks so much for the new information to broaden our horizons.

What a great idea -- seems like something the local Chambers of Commerce would jump all over. My, how the Internet has changed our lives!

Ronni, my Media Studies classes have wondered if the new media are good for democracy. They have the potential to carry on the pub-on-the-corner community function... Papers like the NYTimes and the Wash. Post online have found national/international audiences while other papers have realized they have to become more narrow and relevant to their places.

What a wonderful idea! I'm going to go check and see what's available in my city! And if there isn't one, I might start one -- woman about town that I am -- NOT!!! lol

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