Man With Shirt Off Terrifies Community

February 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

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No, that’s not me… I always get cheese on my chili dog. Mr. I’mTooSexyForMyShirt is the subject of an article in The Onion’s often hilarious local news section. The article plays off the um localness of local news. There are other funny ones:

Part of the joke is: who cares? Is this really news? But the truth is, all of these stories (except maybe the fry guy) are, in a way, genuine local news stories. They represent information that is relevant to someone — definitely not the entire local community, maybe only a small portion of it. But, if you think about it, there is relevance in there some where — someone actually does care about the local play, the gym teacher, the eyesore, even Senor I’mSoSexyItHurts.

These local events illustrate what smart guy Steven B. Johnson calls the pothole paradox — a pothole getting repaired on a street is news for you, only if you drive on that street. The person on the next street over could care less, the car-less walking fanatic probably doesn’t care either. As an example, he describes how a how planned construction project on his block is:

far more important than anything going on in Iraq, or in the U.S. campaign season, much less in Britney Spears’ custody battle. It was news that had significant financial and safety implications for their entire family. And yet despite its urgency, the news had arrived on their doorstep via the word-of-mouth network of two neighbors gossiping with each other.

On the Internet, it’s still easier for me to find out the price of milk in Mogadishu than it is for me to find out what that loud boom was that I heard last night in my own neighborhood — even though I’m more interested in the boom than in the milk.

Local info has been slower to move online than global info. Probably because it’s always been easier, if a bit haphazard, to get local info from off-line sources — namely, other people in the community, like, say, two neighbors gossiping (hey, they heard the boom too!).

Web 2.0 (or whatever the current state of the Internet is called) is starting to provide an online presence for these specialized, localized bits of info. The web is changing the way local information travels, especially the kind of local info that generally doesn’t make into the local media (except maybe The Onion). A post on a blog or in an online discussion forum or a Facebook wall or Twitter — these are becoming increasingly viable and important ways to keep up with local info.

This combining of the online and the off-line is where local is at. I’ll probably mis-quote her…. but Jessamyn West, of Librarian.net, once wrote that her sources for info include things like: Ask Metafilter, the library, Google, NPR, cereal boxes, people on the bus, and flyers stapled to telephone poles. I love that: Google, the garrulous guy in the seat next to you on the bus, blogs, your nosy neighbor, an online discussion forum, telephone poles, and your box of Fruit Loops. That’s what you need these days to stay connected…

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