Today The New York Times Business section featured a front-page profile by Claire Cain Miller and Brad Stone of a bunch of start-up blogs that are trying to do some start-up journalism.
“If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage? Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer,” the piece begins. “A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.”
The story of hyperlocal blogs is a familiar one recently, particularly to people at The Times: They started their own, The Local, to cover three suburban towns in New Jersey and Fort Greene and Clinton Hill in Brooklyn.
And yet, in a story where The Times very much has a horse in the race, it did not include any disclosure about how it runs and operates The Local (though it did mention how it does have a relationship with one of the profiled blogs, EveryBlock).
Damon Darlin, the technology editor of The Times, told The Observer that the disclosure wasn’t necessary because this story is about fledgling blogs that didn’t have a journalistic parent to support it.
“The sites we talk about are bottom-up start-ups that use streams of government information and links to local blogs and news sources,” he said. “They are very different models than what The Times or the Seattle paper is doing.”
Mary Ann Giordano, the editor of The Local, said she was on vacation last week and didn’t know about the story.
The blogs were started at the end of February, with Times reporters encouraging locals to participate in it as much as possible. It’s an experiment, and there’s no business model, but The Times is hoping it can find its way to one with these blogs. In-house they have been calling the project “the microblogs.”
“It’s not like we’re hiding the fact we have a hyperlocal blog,” said Mr. Darlin. “That’s pretty obvious for anyone who sees it. It wouldn’t have hurt to put another sentence in there, but it’s not like we’re playing hide the ball here because we publish it every day. This [story] was about things that people didn’t know about.”