A West Midlands newspaper editor has claimed hyperlocals’ calls for payment from other outlets which follow up their stories are “unrealistic” – but says he is open to other forms of collaboration with such titles.
Birmingham Press Club director Marc Reeves (pictured), who edits the Birmingham Mail and its sister website Birmingham Live, says he does not believe larger news organisations “should seek permission or make payments” to pursue stories initially published by hyperlocals.
In an interview with former South Wales Evening Post and Nottingham Post journalist Jane Haynes, who runs Worcestershire-based site Wyre Life, Marc added he could not foresee a scenario where he was “going to sack a reporter” to pay hyperlocals to provide copy for him.
Media website Hold The Front Page reports that Marc’s comments come after Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism last month secured funding from Google to develop tools aimed at helping hyperlocal titles make money from stories they publish, as well as enabling them to track other organisations picking up their content online.
Earlier this year Emma Meese, director of Cardiff-based hyperlocal trade body the Independent Community News Network, also raised concerns from members that their content was being “stolen” by bigger publishers.
But Marr told Jane: “I don’t get the idea that we should seek permission or make payments to pursue a story published by a hyperlocal. Once it’s in the public domain it’s out there, isn’t it?
“Expecting other publishers to ignore a story because Wyre Life, or whoever, has done it first, or to pay to carry the story once it’s been published is, I think, unrealistic.
“My reporters dig out stories all the time that are picked up by [an agency] and sold on without us or them benefiting.”
But Marc also expressed an interest in collaborating with hyperlocals in other ways, admitting there had been a past “arrogance” in the way mainstream media outlets had treated the hyperlocal sector.
He said: “I am definitely open to the idea of working together. That might involve exchanging resources, sharing information and expertise, working together on stories or campaigns – I can see merit in that type of holistic approach, one in which we are spreading our wings a bit more into the edges around Birmingham.
“It would be great for campaigns like BrumFeeds [Birmingham Live’s campaign to collect food donations and cash for homeless and vulnerable people] to be shared across as many media as possible. We could pre-arrange joint coverage, have collection points in outlying communities where hyperlocals operate, and so on.
“But we are massively constrained financially. So if I wanted to, say, pay a hyperlocal or group of hyperlocals to provide copy to us, am I going to sack a reporter to do so? I can’t see that happening.”