In his blog The Exploding Newsroom, John Hassell poses the fascinating question — just how do newspapers build relationships with local bloggers? I’ll admit that I started thinking about writing this piece after just reading the beginning of his post. While he offers “one simple way to start: Make the local blogosphere a beat,” I wondered what other approaches could newspapers use? What if it is not as simple as building relationships with existing bloggers? What if there are no bloggers?
In newsrooms throughout the country I have heard reporters and editors claim that they have no local bloggers, or if there are any, they can’t find them or don’t interact with them. I have heard them talk about the lack of a local blogging community as a justification for not expanding their own blogs. Their community, they claim, just doesn’t “get” blogs.
But whether your coverage area has local bloggers or not, I think you have a great opportunity to develop new bloggers, strengthen your existing blogging community and, as a result, build better relationships between your newspaper and the blogosphere.
So you’re intrigued, but wonder just how to do this. Well, think about leveraging your internal expertise. You can:
- Hold workshops hosted by your staff for local bloggers on topics ranging from SEO to writing better headlines.
- Have an open house where people interested in blogging can come and get help setting up a blog either on your own system or on one of the free blogging platforms that you choose.
- Sponsor a MeetUp where local bloggers can get together and meet each other and members of your staff.
- Create a directory of local blogs (for example I’m listed on njweblogs) and host it on your site.
While those should get you started, I wouldn’t even stop there. What ever you decide to do, remember to advertise the events both in print and online, you might even want do something as low-tech as distributing flyers around your coverage areas. I would also recommend that you ask attendees to RSVP, so you can be prepared especially if, for example, you’re hosting an open house.
No matter what you decide to do, I think you’ll find this effort enjoyable and rewarding. As John wrote, you’ll learn more about the community you cover, create new avenues for collecting information and distributing your reporter’s works and you’ll build trust “with people who are passionately interested in local issues.”
Give it a shot, and make sure to let me know how it goes.