DC has a ton of neighborhood blogs. These are the new listserves, the new 'neighborhood newsletter,' so on and so forth. I'll even admit, I read some of these neighborhood blogs. I might even read three or four different neighborhood blogs. However, there's one thing that needs to be said, so I'll say it as clearly as possible.
'Hyperlocal' blogs are not a substitute for newspapers.
I keep seeing how local bloggers are filling the void left by the collapse of newspapers. I'll give some local blogs some credit, they are covering things that no one else is covering. The Washington Post doesn't send reporters to local ANC meetings to report on voluntary agreements and liquor licenses. This is very true. However, there is still a huge void in local news that cannot be filled by 'part-time keyboard jockeys' such as myself.
Blogs are great at 1) serving as a filter of local news, highlighting interesting stories that may fly under the radar and 2) providing entertaining commentary.
However, blogs do not fill the void left by the lack of actual hard news coverage. You don't have bloggers digging through court records and testimony to put together a several thousand word piece on an unsolved murder case. You don't have bloggers asking the tough questions at press conferences. That's because blogs are (generally) not a full-time occupation where the writer can spend their days doing research, conducting interviews and building stories.
Newspapers, television and radio stations have the resources needed to cover local news in depth. As we know, in DC, a lot of outlets don't do a great job at this. But on any given day take a look at CityDesk over at the Washington City Paper. Take a look at the Washington Examiner. And yes, take a look at the Washington Post Metro Section. This is where the real reporting is done. This is where the bloggers get their material. Without these sources, we'd only be writing about 'neat' doors, the new wine bar opening in the basement of another wine bar, or that time you think you saw a bunch of police do something and maybe a helicopter was involved.
Do the hyperlocal blogs serve a purpose? Sure they do, but they aren't a substitute for the Metro section. There's a niche for everything but I should hope no one confuses blogging for real, shoeleather journalism. Might it help the Post if they launched their own set of hyperlocal blogs? Maybe, but not until they do something about their awful web design. If the Post or some other media-savvy enterprise acquired a blog in each 'high profile' neighborhood and paid the writer to blog as a full-time job (with some sort of responsibility) then perhaps we'd actually get some good local coverage.
That would never turn a profit, though, as not enough people read such blogs.