Alright so there’s not really any journalism involved in creating a hyperlocal t-shirt shop, but it might help make hyperlocal journalism sustainable.
It’s a proud day for me because out of The Lichfield Blog we have launched Viva LichVegas. It’s a t-shirt brand that takes a light-hearted look at our ‘patch’ to create something that hopefully helps support our hyperlocal news operation.
Simply, we came up with some t-shirt designs with our friends at local t-shirt printing co-operative, Sabcat and are churning them out for a tenner each. Each t-shirt we sell puts a fiver in the TLB kitty, helping to pay our costs and shore us up for the future.
Personally, I don’t entirely agree with the whole ‘journalists must become entrepreneurs’ line of thought touted by the likes of Jeff Jarvis. However, I do agree that in order for local media to become financially sustainable some inventive solutions need to be dreamt up. I believe that’s what we’ve done today.
Viva LichVegas is one of many more to come, too. We pay our costs through the advertising we run on the Addiply network and anything generated by VLV will help to make us more comfortable. Further ventures will build on this, generating enough revenue to make huge leaps.
We need to buy kit so we’re not relying on crumbling laptops, video cameras so we can start doing ‘TV’ and some good audio equipment so we can do more great interviews. And when we’re not using that kit, maybe we could lend it out to community groups and help them to report what they’re doing.
It’d be nice if we could do some more investigative work maybe and hold the authorities to account more, but we’d need someone else to do that for us and luckily they are freelance journalists in Lichfield who may well be up for that, at the right price.
Following the recent ScraperWiki hacks and hackers day in Lichfield, a new group has spawned to keep up the good work. Money generated by our commercial ventures could be used to support that work which in itself could give birth to even more new ventures.
The end goal? Providing community-generated, community-focused, impartial news and information to the people of Lichfield District.
Why stop there though, eh? What we’re doing potentially is creating a template for sustainable local media that can be transferred elsewhere. Maybe down the road in Tamworth, or across to Cannock, up to Burton or further afield.
Start small (hyperlocal), think big!