The team behind hyperlocal site Your Thurrock has launched a new website, Your Harlow, with funds from the Carnegie UK Trust's neighbourhood news project.
The £10,000 grant, which Your Thurrock received alongside four other organisations in May, has been used to prepare the team for the increased workload. Video played a prominent role in driving both traffic and revenue to Your Thurrock when it first opened, and Michael Casey, editor of the two Essex sites, said he intends to do the same at Your Harlow: attracting visitors with videos before establishing the site as a valuable source of local news.
"The formal nature of disseminating news is what people are going to Your Thurrock for now," Casey told Journalism.co.uk. "Video is becoming a part on the side."
At Your Thurrock, the team has created nearly 5,000 videos since its launch in 2008 (it hit the 4,000 video milestone as it marked its fourth anniversary). A similar process has begun at Your Harlow in documenting features of the town.
"We want to be able to give out cameras to people who want to be involved," Casey said.
The editorial model for Your Harlow is similar to Your Thurrock, involving local contributors and community groups, and there are plans to work with the nearby Journalism Centre at Harlow College. Students will be invited to take part in the new academic year and Casey is keen to strike up relationships with the local arts community.
"It's founded on the organic nature of using the community, and of news in the community," he said. "The arts community are very much in tune with social media – Harlow Playhouse film items each month which they upload to Vimeo. With a printed newspaper there's nowhere to hang that, with us there's a way to promote it."
Casey also said Your Harlow would be filling a gap in the local market in terms of an online news presence, but also providing information to plug the "democratic deficit" that can sometimes exist in local communities and hopes to encourage engagement among readers.
"When you see the first comment on your site it's great," he said. "People saying things like 'I'm not happy about the bus service', for example. That's the world that we want to get going and as we start reporting on council meetings we'll start finding that community."
Supporting channels for public information is central to the Carnegie UK Trust's aims in the neighbourhood news project, which is an extension of the Trust's mission statement. It aims to improve the lives and well-being of the population and has therefore funded more than 600 libraries across the UK and Ireland.
"In the 21st century the need for access to knowledge as a prerequisite for an informed citizenry remains," said Martyn Evans, chief executive of Carnegie UK Trust, in an email to Journalism.co.uk, "but the mechanisms for accessing it are less and less focused on the physical building of the library."
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