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Knight Center concludes online course on Hyperlocal Journalism

A new generation of "hyperlocal" websites is filling the void left by the decrease in news agencies and the crisis of the press. This is why the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas offered its first version of the online course "Hyperlocal Journalism" in Spanish from Oct. 17-Nov. 12, 2010. Thirty five journalists from Latin America and the Caribbean participated in the online course taught by Argentinean journalist Sandra Crucianelli.

“I think that this course offered tools in order for the journalists to find and develop better local stories. We also analyzed other countries' experiences and showed how few resources hyperlocal media need for addressing the news needs in small cities," Crucianelli said.

“Reporters had the possibility to publish their stories on a blog created for the course, as well as at www.sololocal.info, which also served as a reference website principally because of the style of narrative employed, in which the combination of hypertext with hypermedia is done differently from other media outlets; we don’t only integrate links, but dynamic tables, databases, etc.," Crucianelli added.

The course, conducted totally online, was divided into weekly modules and included audiovisual presentations, documents and online resources. Students worked at their own pace, but were expected to complete weekly assignments, participate in online discussions and in the other exercises as well. Those who satisfactorily completed the course will receive a certificate of participation from the Knight Center.

“I liked the course very much. It gave me an entrepreneurial perspective about digital and hyperlocal journalism. In my city there are not many hyperlocal journalism initiatives; hopefully this would start to change soon," said participant Luciana Ferreira.

Lilian Caballero, who also took the course, agreed: “This course opened my eyes about hyperlocal journalism and its relevance. But more importantly it gave me valuable resources and tools."

Looking ahead, Crucianelli concludes: “The big challenge is for hyperlocal media projects to be economically sustainable; through various financial models, from micro-donations or micro-publicity to foundation grants and others, they could. This experience was really interesting and enriching because some of these journalists already have online hyperlocal media outlets, or they are developing them, so the activities had a lot of feedback from all the participants. I also was able to share my stories, experiences, obstacles and achievements."

Crucianelli is an internationally-renowned journalist and a specialist in precision journalism. She has offered this popular online course since 2004 as part of the distance learning program of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Throughout the course she was assisted by Paul Alonso, a Peruvian journalist and a staff member of the Knight Center for the Journalism in the Americas.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, contact the Knight Center’s program manager, Jennifer Potter-Miller at jpottermiller@mail.utexas.edu or +1 512 471-1391.