NYU Partners With NY Times for Hyperlocal East Village Blog

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Earlier this month, Gothamist founder Jake Dobkin went nuclear on the New York Times for its lack of innovation and abominable failure in the Metro space. “Cityroom is a fairly lazy and sleep-inducing ripoff of Gothamism.”

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How ironic, then, that just yesterday, the Times announced that it has partnered with NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute to create The Local: East Village, a hyperlocal blog that will be produced by NYU and published on the Times’ site. It’s like they could tell the future!

In all seriousness, the LEV will be “a news site about the culture and politics, the life and times of the East Village of Manhattan,” writes Jay Rosen, who directs NYU’s Studio20 along with Jason Samuels and has nurtured this collaboration for over a year. As the site develops, NYU faculty member and former Times reporter Richard G. Jones will serve as editor, and on the Times’ side, deputy Metropolitan editor Mary Ann Giordano will take the helm.

“We want to continue to expand our network of collaborations, in the New York area and across the country, through associations with individuals, companies and institutions that share our values – foremost, increasing the volume and scope of quality journalism about issues that matter,” said Jim Schachter, editor, digital initiatives, The New York Times. “We think that the journalism program at N.Y.U. is the perfect match for this initiative.”

NYU has provided a little of this and a little of that for the site’s development. Students from the Stern School of Business Consulting Corps are helping figure out how to make some money with this thing; IT students are working on an open source assignment desk system; in the fall, students in “The Hyperlocal Newsroom,” taught by  Yvonne Latty and Darragh Worland will provide editorial.

The school is even reaching out to students and alumni in the nether regions of NYU and contributors from the East Village proper. According to Rosen, they hope 50% of the site will come from local contributors.

Meanwhile, Studio20 has spearheaded the initiative, devoting its spring semester to its design and construction. The tiny program has covered everything from beat building to work flows to topic pages and data apps, to community relationships and social media, and somewhere in there, I’m assuming they still find time to sleep and wolf down $0.10 wings at Phebes on Wednesday. Which is, after all, part of their beat.

“NYU is a part of the community, and yes, a player in the community LEV will be covering,” Rosen said in an online chat this morning, “that makes it harder, trickier but also a richer experiment, journalistically.”

The Times currently has a similar collaboration between The Local:Brooklyn and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; it began work in March 2009 and assumed editorial leadership in January 2010.

But the difference, according to Rosen, is that NYU’s work is a start-up, as fresh and exciting as the neighborhood in which it lives, works and breathes. They’re not trying to create a “replicable site…but an outstanding one.”

And a lot of people think that’s exactly what the Times needs. Somewhere in its fervent need to BE the New York Times, they lost their new media pizazz, failing to integrate and innovate and fizzling behind hyperlocal competition. Dobkin even suggested in a follow-up note on his Facebook profile that the Times needed to “Be More Interesting (Especially To Younger People).” Guess the Times figured that out, too.

Some people, like The Awl’s Choire Sicha, aren’t too thrilled that the partnership capitalizes on young, unpaid journalists. “This setup entrenches the professionalization of journalism,” Choire writes. “Want to get known at the New York Times, which has a hiring freeze, except where it doesn’t? Great: mortgage your future with a wildly-expensive j-school degree, which may or may likely not later provide you with a job that will not allow you to pay it back in the next two decades.”

But Rosen and Studio20 are well aware of those challenges. “Look, not everyone is going to be thrilled that NYU is doing this with the New York Times,” he writes. “We’ll have to take those problems on, not as classroom abstractions but civil transactions with the people who live and work here. You know what? It’s going to be messy and hard, which is to say real.”

This post originally appeared on Mediaite.

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