Introducing Oakland Local

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Facilitated by Susan Mernit, Oakland Local

Oakland Local (http://www.oaklandlocal.com) is a news & community site for Oakland focusing on social justice issues including climate change, air quality, food access, arts as activists, and identity, race & ethnicity. Oakland Local is launching in partnership with 35 local nonprofit, neighborhood & community organizations. They combine postings of their news and information with blogging and with reported stories from a top quality news team. Susan will discuss the development process for getting the site launched, and invite discussion about this exciting new citizen-focused media resource.

Session Notes

Oakland Local

small initial budget

inspired by news not having a forum to discuss local issues fairly


people in attendance interests: bootstrapping, development process, how these ideas are created, how communities can replicate

she's worked on several startups in last year

this one worked because of early initial failures

tech incubator [what is a tech incubator??]

need a committed team - she found some awesome drupal developers volunteered to build portfolio piece as drupal project

public media collaborative (local version similar to aspirationtech)

developer, designer, community manager – everyone knew there wasn't money to do full time, but could volunteer part time

lots of initial time spent talking with people -

she met with people from local organizations -

'I want to start this thing – what would make it useful for you' non profit groups said they don't know how to use computers, not good with social media if they could help reach more people – people who would give money or write about the organizations – and if they didn't have to do any work or invest upfront, then it would be great

drupal email to rss tool – take email newsletters – cut up and repost -

putting events in calendar -

people took interest and have different people oakland local similar like sf gate

label for 'community news' - reporter (paid to write) blogger (invited ppl from community to blog) community partner

different as being a media outlet vs being a blog

reading strategic plans from local organizations - looking for common social justic issues that people focus on

news source for working class in oakland reactions to city council people who only read conservative blogs questions about non-profits that might be out of touch with local community


twitter for calendars

cheap tech platform looking for collaborators to participate in idea, not necessarily to verify it

oakland has 170 languages = most of it never shows up in blogosphere

any one blogger could do their neighborhood well

getting range of people to represent issues that are important to them

powerful that different people can co-exist together is more like how it actually exists in real life

how to deal with conflicting politics?

Dissenting opinion is part of journalism – not about pushing agenda (well maybe) accuracy + thoroughness representing a range of voices

blogher – network of contributing editors

being a good editor helps contribute to legitimacy

10000 unique visitors in first month– 57% returning – which is good for a regional website

aggressive social media campaign – partners all practiced in using social media

timeboxed launch (sunday live at 3am) wrote many personal emails – people who would be interested – offerring that people could write about it on monday between 9 and 5pm

people who wanted to respond – created a big burst on twitter - people felt like it was an event and so then people started piling on – (including reporters)

'timeboxing' important

doing local twitter follows - then started facebook group 1700 facebook fans in a month (half live in oakland)

being new – has no legacy of how the news source has to be

biggest effort in building relationships and keeping site diverse

mission local

outside onlooker vs inside members

question: what is your ideal funding model – and what is your plan a model?

Use whatever connections you have.

oakland 415,000 people –

writing ad packages – ex holiday packages

talking to people who sell ads and getting advice



she's most excited about the original reporting from the community and not necessarily the morning aggregation (some discussion about how aggregation loses visuals, also about how aggregation repost/reflects biases that already exist in media)

texas tribune

talking with people most important

bigger it is, the more expensive it is to run it?

Aligning goals with other similar efforts in other cities

rolling it out to other places -

people in certain places feeling entitled to share their opinion

second-tier cities


ohmynews in korea

huge pent up demand for other opinions to be heard

she works as trainer for knightfoundation people not from media who are already trying to catalyze locally – and they are web savvy

civic empowerment – giving information to people that will give them enough information to take action if they choose to

goal isn't writing beautiful stories – but about getting information out there

printcasting – bakersfield, ca

wants to start a video channel

video to blip.tv – can distribute to other networks -