Voice of San Diego, Beacon of Light for New Media?

Posted: February 13, 2012 in JN 553
Tags: , , , , ,

With this sudden surge of online news sites and hyperlocal sites, many have failed to meet the needs of their audiences, failed to secure advertising, or failed to be innovative.  As I stated in my previous post, many startups or blogs are successful for many reasons, but the key aspect is maintaining a business model that supports great content.  Voice of San Diego does that efficiently and that is why it is considered one of the most successful online news startups.  Again, I discussed the Voice of San Diego briefly, but I wanted to go into more detail about why it works and why it stands out in this myriad of hyperlocal sites.

First, it focuses on the San Diego, California region only, provides in-depth, investigative reports, and it encourages audience participation.  It is a non-profit news organization, receiving its support from donations and foundations.  There are a couple of things that I think the Voice of San Diego does better than other sites and newspapers like The San Diego Union-Tribune.  For example, the Voice of San Diego does these special, in-depth reports, including ongoing serial narratives. They are long-form pieces, atypical of the traditional news story in terms of writing style. Many of the narratives include  hundreds of sources that took the staff several months to investigate and interview.  They are more personalized accounts focusing on the individuals affected by the issue.  The Voice of San Diego uses multimedia, the textual form of the story, and all documentation and evidence gathered to package the story in a much more interesting and creative way.  They go beyond reporting the basic facts, and this is conveyed in their Fact-Check, which has evolved into a TV show.

There are many news outlets that do this already, but I think what makes the Voice of San Diego different is that they don’t just check statements made by politicians.  They look into anything the readers want investigated in the public sphere, and this encourages civic engagement and participation.  The readers also get to contribute in rating whether the information is true, false, or falls somewhere in between.  It works and helps people to get their truth.  So, the Voice of San Diego has not only managed to maintain a successful business model, but the staff also works really hard to provide relevant content to their San Diego readers.

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