"A short drive on the San Bernardino Freeway east from downtown LA brings you to Alhambra," New Zealand journalist Peter Griffin writes in his blog Future News, "a working class city that is also a test bed for an experiment in using journalism to strengthen civic engagement."
Future News is a site "tracking developments in the media with the aim of helping journalists and media managers alike think about the best way forward for journalism in New Zealand as the news business model is turned on its head." Griffin recently visited Alhambra as a Fulbright scholar and wrote up his impressions of the project, and about the possibility of creating a similar initiative in New Zealand.
"The Alhambra Source is one of hundreds of hyper local news sites that have popped up serving cities, towns and suburbs across the U.S.," Griffin writes. "It is different however in its remit to improve civic engagement and in the academic roots that underpin its creation, which ultimately see it run as an experiment that everyone will be able to learn from."
One lesson that could apply to New Zealand, he writes, is the question of how to engage people of different ethnicities in local news. "New Zealand's population is fairly homogenous compared to Alhambra's, but the country is also experiencing significant demographic change," Griffin writes. "Auckland is one of the most multi-ethnic communities in the world with the largest Polynesian population base and a large Asian community." While he writes that New Zealand has a strong tradition of community media, online-only journalism could appeal to a younger generation and those who are less civically active.
An Austrian newspaper, Die Presse, also recently published a story about Alhambra Source and University of Southern California's efforts to not only create a local news site, but create a model that could be applied to other communities at a time that local reporting is on the decrease. In an article titled "Internet instead of the L.A. Times" Tobias Asmuth writes in German that evaluation techniques go beyond number of hits. The site, he writes, is "trying to measure how 'Alhambra Source' affects civil engagement. The goal is to develop models for journalism, that would encourage residents in ethnically diverse cities to participate in communal life."