News is an onion

Pic: Jason Scragz
Pic: Jason Scragz

A wise ogre once told a donkey, “Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

I’d like to add a third to the ‘things with layers list’; online news.

While the news industry is going through all this change I’m making sense of it by comparing it to onions. The way I see it, there are several layers;

  • Local bloggers
  • Hyperlocal news providers
  • Local newspapers
  • Regional TV news
  • National news providers

I’ve separated bloggers and hyperlocal for a very important reason – bloggers are the very first layer of the news onion. I’m referring to those who are blogging about their sports club, social club, voluntary group or grievances. These are generally those active in the community simply shouting about what they do, or commenting on the community around them, they help to feed the local media with stories. The best example has to be the excellent

The hyperlocal layer is the first level of active news reporting – covering everything that goes on in that area. This is where I place sites like Pits ‘n’ Pots, Bournville Village and The Lichfield Blog – all sites with a professional journalist behind them (not that it’s a requirement!). These sites report what’s happening in the community but also wider issues like politics, education, justice and health.

Local newspapers I then see as covering a similar but sometimes wider area. These are publications like the Birmingham Mail, The Sentinel and Lichfield Mercury. These feed off both the bloggers and the hyperlocals, covering some of the community activity as well as the issues concerning that community but they also report on a larger area, covering some regional issues for example.

Then you have the regional TV news which covers the big stories of the day for a wider area than the regional newspapers will look at. And finally national news providers, such as The Guardian, BBC and ITN who report what’s relevant nationally but also the occasional local-level story which goes big (a great recent example is the Staffordshire Hoard).

Right, that isn’t exactly ground-breaking (mind you, neither is the next bit..) so here’s why it matters: It’s not dis-similar from a food chain. Each of the layers of the news onion feed off each other. National news feeds off regional news, regional off local, local off hyperlocal and hyperlocal off community.

So in this time of evolving media (not new vs. old) it’s important that we learn to share. Hyperlocals need to understand that they will be feeding off their community.

I think it’s also important for existing media, such as local newspapers to acknowledge hyperlocal and community bloggers as a source of news and work with them. Newspapers, I feel, could benefit a great deal from the passion that can be found in bloggers – afterall, we’re all in the same sinking ship. Rather than climbing over each other we should help each other into the lifeboat.

Okay, I’ve used two analogies – a good time to stop. Thoughts are very welcome in the comments below.





3 responses to “News is an onion”

  1. […] basic journalism training (especially on legal issues) in exchange for stories? It’s the news onion, again. The bloggers would effectively act as independent journalists, with their own site but as […]

  2. […] how hyperlocal will contribute to the local media industry – what I like to call the ‘news onion‘. David Higgerson and I lead a #TAL10 panel on collaboration between hyperlocal and regional […]

  3. […] news onion that I blogged about almost exactly a year ago keeps coming up – regional media are now […]

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