October 05, 2008

Community Journalism online - Arcot Road Times

In the summer of May 2008, we took another step in community journalism.
We launched www.arcotroadtimes.com, a web site focused on the neighbourhoods across K. K. Nagar, Vadapalani, Virugambakkam and Valasarawakkam.

It was a scratchy start - all our projects have debuted in this manner. We chose to build on a WordPress template and started gingerly. Since then, the web site has demanded a lot from us.
And the climbing graph of our visitors is pushing us.

Community news and info web sites call for a unique approach. Get the community involved.
And it isn't easy.
This Navaratri season we are trying to coax people to mail us pictures of their kolus and community celebrations.
Since most people own a digi-camera, shooting pictures is easy. But e-mailing them calls for some effort.
Most of us to assume that people in the metros are Net-savvy. Not correct.
So we have to hold a hand and SMS tips to help seniors connect.
But it is worth the effort.
For, the gallery of pictures generates immense interest and triggers interaction, e-mails and more inputs.

Which is how a web site like www.arcotroadtimes.com will grow.
We have a small band of senior students who send us campus reports. Yes, half of them are dictated by their teachers or their file lists all the winners of certificates and medals the school team won at the essay contest on 'The dangers of smoking'.
But with encouragement and cajoling, the reports get better.

We do have the intrepid colony reporters too.
One man has to e-mail us every week on anything that happens in his sector - broken manhole cover, overflowing sewage, dropping tree trunk, blaring taxis.
He doesn't expect us to post the litany.
I am hoping his keen eye will one night catch the shadow of a fleeing thief and that he will go after the shadowy rogue and the chase will have an exciting denouement. And that he will report it, firsthand.

Well, we at Arcot Road Times aren't waiting for wild stories. We don't encourage them.
But the web site is growing with the community's contributions. Slowly, local businesses have begun to show interest. A local home-based caterer is excited - he wants to e-mail his weekend offers and is willing to watch the response.
A pharmacy, open 24 hours, is talking too. So is a local builder of apartments.
The process is exciting.

Do take a look at this web site. Your ideas, suggestions and comments are welcome.(E-mail - arcotroadtimes@gmail.com)


Swarna said...

Great attempt by a section of Chennai-ites.
A request - pl carry a message on voting. It is a right, yes, but it's time we see it as a duty?

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks Swarna for this suggestion.

Our weeklies - Adyar Times, Mylapore Times and Arcot Road Times have closely covered local elections - campaigns, issues, candidates . . .
The media too has its limitation.
But we are proud of what we have done - people also need to respond and that, few do!