Good dog, bad dog: Exploring audience uses and attitudes to hyperlocal community news media through the prism of banal pet stories
Keywords:hyperlocal media, citizen journalism, ethnography, everyday, audiences
Hyperlocal media is a form of online community news usually (in the UK at least) run by citizens, offering local information to residents in a village, town or city. Research has thus far typically been framed within journalism studies, discourses of social change, citizen journalism and civic engagement, and has focused on practitioners. Quantitative audience studies have been useful in identifying reader motivations and uses, but richer work exploring everyday narratives is lacking. This paper draws on ethnographic work (online, observing a Facebook page, and offline, attending community events and interviewing audience members) in order to explore the uses and value of such media for the audience of residents. The paper focuses on one aspect of this media, banal stories about lost pets, and suggests that hyperlocal media offers a unique but sometimes problematic platform for community discussions in which readers and editors work together to source, write and share online content to a collaborative end. This paper demonstrates through this prism of animal stories the value of hyperlocal media in offering unique opportunities for residents to be heard and participate within their communities, whilst appreciating the tensions inherent in such an editorially and technologically mediated online space.