The NYT has launched its hyper-local blog called "The Local," and it's everything the name implies -- coverage of a neighborhood by non-journalist locals with the superivision of an NYT reporter. In this case, Andy Newman does a decent job narrating the enterprise in the pilot Fort Greene and Clinton Hill editions, but fails to give the neighborhood what it needs -- a sense of what its readers truly need to know.
Instead,in the cliched way way small-town community papers do, "The Local" focuses on the minutiae of daily life: the snow day, the sledding, the little guy fighting the big institutions. The notion behind the local -- and it's wrong -- is that New Yorkers want their neighborhood news delivered in a hyper-local package within the whole of an institution of the NYT. We would differ. The whole point of a paper like the NYT is to provide journalism -- created by real reporters -- that goes beyond the obvious and answers questions, and tells readers what it doesn't already know.
There may eventually be a place for this sort of thing, if Newman can get over himself and start reporting on openings, closings, crime and punishment in his neighborhoods. He needs to answer a reader who wants an explanation for that shooting sound she heard last night; he must know the reason the fish store closed and the Starbucks opened. It can't be speculative or impressionistic, it needs the same sort of journalistic imperative that drives the rest of the NYT. And judging from Day One of "The Local," it's a long way off.