BBC Pop Up aims to demonstrate that "local stories happening in cities outside of Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles in North America are worth telling to a global audience", according to Matthew Danzico, head of the BBC Video Innovation Lab, and one of the video journalists working on the project.
He told Journalism.co.uk the team wanted to choose stories that resonate with both the local community and the BBC's large worldwide audience, travelling to six different cities over the course of six months.
The first video published by the team comes one year after the region of Jamestown, Colorado, was devastated by floods. "We told the story in such a way where it speaks to others... and we're going to try to replicate that idea continually throughout the project."
Video from bbc.co.uk
Danzico said BBC Pop Up was a "DIY project", and while there was a rough plan, what worked in Boulder – a town with an engaged community and a university with over 30,000 students – might not work in their next location. "We have a plan to crowdsource story ideas by having a meet-up of some sort, how we do that is flexible."
Locations are chosen based on certain guidelines including the number of residents, which generally falls between 100,000 and 800,000, and a connection to a university.
A sense of community engagement and a local debate or controversial issue are also important, according to Danzico. "For the project to be effective we need the town to embrace our presence," he said.
On top of community meet-ups, BBC Pop Up offers journalism workshops to student journalists and others interested in the media. These workshops could take many forms, from the team lecturing in a university to sessions in their temporary accomodation.
"There is a structure in that we have to offer up classes," he said, "we have to crowdsource our story ideas, we have to create video features and documentaries ourselves, and we have to engage with the community in some way.
"Here [in Boulder] we're engaging with the community by basing our office within a co-working space, we're working right alongside local start-ups."
At the next location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Danzico said the team needs to decide if they will be doing the same, or "maybe we base ourselves inside a local restaurant that serves crawfish". The third stop has yet to be decided.
The team currently lives in a shared house where the dining room has been converted into a video editing station, and the basement into a voice over booth. "We've created what is effectively a BBC Pop Up house."
Video from bbc.co.uk
He told Journalism.co.uk the idea for the project came from wanting to tackle the issue of how much journalists really know about a community they are covering, if they are flying out of a city to get there.
Until recently Danzico was based in London, but had previously been travelling around North America producing video features for almost five years. He said he realised he had been going into certain regions assuming he knew which stories were important to the community.
He said BBC Pop Up is taking the idea of gathering data, which would normally include looking at social media mentions of certain issues or reading local papers, "to a physical state".
"We're asking people to literally come out and give us this information and give us this data, and tell us what stories they want told about their region." Danzico said about 40 people attended the project's first community meet-up, and discussed local issues for almost two hours.
"They offered up enormous amounts of story ideas," he said. "They got into debates with each other, and we talked about the reasons why some of these stories are so important to the residents."
The content produced by the BBC Pop Up team will be published online and broadcast on World TV, and some stories will also be running on BBC World Service as radio projects.
The journalists will be producing a 30-minute documentary on each region at the end of every month, which will include a look behind the scenes. In addition, BBC Pop Up also runs a Tumblr blog where thoughts behind every decision are posted.
"We're trying to be somewhat casual in our approach to the creation of the project," said Danzico. "We're trying to create the project in an open source way where literally from day one... we're blogging about it. The project really could be replicated by any media organisations."
Free daily newsletter
- Newsrewired March 2019: seven main takeaways
- BBC Local News Partnerships: how breaking out of the London bubble can strengthen the news agenda
- Local Democracy Reporters supply 850 regional titles with public interest stories
- The Cairncross Report: what it says and first impressions
- BBC uses immersive video to show life of Madagascan women imprisoned for crimes committed by their male relatives