As I'm sure many people are aware by now, the Guardian Leeds experiment is drawing to a close, and John Baron is moving to The Northerner. This isn't a post about "but why?" or "those dastardly rotters!", but about where to take it next, which sort-of began a couple of weeks ago at WePublish, and was explored again last night at Megan Waugh's #AltMedia.
The meeting was to look at what people may want in some sort of gap-filling way to @GdnLeeds vanishing on Friday, and asking if an alternative newspaper in Leeds was feasible. Alas, a lack of agenda and structure to the meeting meant that people weren't really thinking strategically about how to go about doing something, just what the end product should be. Nothing about what we do now.
There were arguments for a "scare everybody" newspaper, for WebTV, for podcasts and community radio. The ever-dependable Mr Chitty mentioned that there's a fantastic noticeboard network in Leeds that is massively underused. Arguments for web-only versus traditional media outlets were put forwards and there was a serious split in the room between those who thought that print is dead - and we shouldn't even be trying to engage with those who don't "do" the internet - and those who wanted to produce something that included those who were digitally disenfranchised.
This was getting frustrating, and not just for me. Lots of what comes out at the end, nothing about what to do next.
I have no problem with running before you can walk but we have an exploitable resource - 15k uniques per week to Guardian Leeds with the majority being to the "what's going on in Leeds today" -style posts, along with 3.3k twitter followers on @GdnLeeds - that needs to maintain momentum. The project ends tomorrow (that's Friday 27th May 2011, if you're reading this in the future), and to just switch all of that off is a collossal waste of effort. Far better to put in something - nearly anything will do - that maintains momentum.
So, when one chap started explaining how Wordpress works I gave in. I asked what was going to happen to the twitter account, was told it'd lapse. I posited that if the most popular articles on Guardian Leeds were the news aggregation posts, those that collected interesting blog and newspaper articles with a hyperlocal focus, then surely continuing to do those (with some sort of technical solution, the details of which were not relevant to this discussion), and posting them to twitter under the @GdnLeeds account, would be a decent interim solution whilst this AltMedia project tries to find its feet. I was asked who would do it.
Yes, I think you can see where this ended up.
So, pending approval from John's bosses in That London, I want to start continuing the "what's going on in Leeds" posts, with blogs, newspaper stories, interesting curatorial points and the occasional rant. I don't have time to do everything John did in the 16 months of sterling work he did for GdnLeeds (I'm not sure anybody would have) but at least I can make a start on it. It won't be on the Guardian's website (unless some sort of miracle happens) but it's something worthwhile that needs to be continued. And hopefully, when the Alternative Media in Leeds project knows what it wants to do, there'll be a place for the daily roundup posts there as well.