At the very moment that a promising experiment in hyperlocal journalism in the Czech Republic seemed set to spread all over the country, the original investors have sold the company and the small town papers and websites are to be shut.
What was unusual about the Nase Adresa (literally “our address”) network was not that it did hyperlocal startups. There are, happily, thousands of those all over the world – although they remain relatively rare in central Europe. The x-factor in Nase Adresa’s recipe was the unusual balance between local and national.
The little news rooms, located in coffee shops, generated most of the material for printed weeklies and websites in communities of usually between 10,000 and 30,000 people. But they were not on their own. The company, PPF, had invested in and raised sponsorship for a “Futuroom” in Prague to which the local reporters could turn for help.
Futuroom trained and advised: on editorial choices, on web tools, on traditional techniques of reporting. When a pattern emerged across several places, the editors in Prague would supply to all their affiliates and aggregated version of the story. Several of the people who worked in the Futuroom were experienced print editors.
This seemed to me, and still seems, a smart balance – if it can be made to work. The story of what has now happened isn’t yet fully clear but apparently this was harder to make work than appeared. Sad development.