Within the community

The International Herald Tribune explains a bold, new media experiment:

“When riots erupted in the outskirts of many French cities last autumn, media around the world struggled to find a way to tell the story of those suburban areas, known as the banlieues.

“A Swiss magazine took the opportunity to try a new approach to online journalism, in an effort to report the issue in a deeper and perhaps more helpful way.

“What is emerging from the experiment is an example of how ‘old’ media can revitalize themselves by incorporating the tools of the ‘new’ media while serving readers in a way that the printed press simply could not have managed before.”

The results are extremely interesting:

“At the height of the riots in early November, the Swiss weekly L’Hebdo decided that its initial articles had not gone far enough in helping readers understand what was happening in France. So the editors chose the town of Bondy, in the suburbs of Paris, and started sending reporters there on rotations of seven to 10 days.

“Working from a tiny room they called the ”˜Bondy microbureau,’ which they borrowed from the local soccer club, the reporters have been doing a lot more than filing their typical weekly stories for the magazine, which is based in Lausanne and has a circulation of 44,000.

“They have been posting short and long reports several times a day, as well as photographs, on what has become known as the Bondy Blog, blogs.hebdo.ch.”

The reporting is often personal and rough and a world away from the polished, and sometimes detached, style of traditional journalistic narratives. Journalists say they’ve discovered a relationship with their readers that simply didn’t exist before. Perhaps most importantly, the publication wants to give something back to the community:

“‘L’Hebdo plans to announce in this week’s issue that it is going to gather a group of young people from Bondy, bring them to Lausanne for journalism training and a ‘blog school’ and then hand them the digital keys to the Bondy Blog, while continuing to support them technically and editorially.

“‘We came from outside, and tried to cover their reality as best as we could,’ Michel, the world-affairs editor, said.

“We want now to help them do it by themselves, using the tools of journalism and of blogging to become actors in their own social space.”

“Closing the loop, the project will be financed in very ‘old media’ way: A major French publisher will turn the Bondy Blog into a book, and the proceeds will go toward supporting blogging in the banlieue.”