Hyperlocal journalism at its best

So many times journalists think great journalism is complicated, complex, investigative stories that bring down the powerful elite. And, while it is true, there is something about a simple, straight-foward piece of solid reporting that can be beat.

Take for example this tiny story done by journalist Bob Owen in Cramahe Now, a hyperlocal news site covering the village of Colborne and the surrounding township about 90 minutes east of Toronto on Lake Ontario.

A reader calls up Owen to complain about a $5 fee being charged to local residents for each child using the summer recreation program. Owen reported earlier last month that council decided to make all programs free to kids from the village. Outsiders would pay.

Somehow the wires were crossed and the recreation people were charging everyone.

Could Owen get to the bottom of this?

Dutifully, phone calls were made to the mayor, recreation director and other councillors. The results were a series of conflicting messages with some saying free and others saying council approved a universal fee.

More complaints come in to Owen. And, more phone calls were made.

The result is the issue is on the table for tonight’s council meeting. It will be clarified. But, Owen’s research indicates the free program supporters may win the day.

It is not a big story; nor is it a complex story that will change the world. But, it will ensure public policy is clear for the village. It has all the elements of advocacy, standing up for the little guy and making sure politicians and bureaucrats are held accountable.

That is what makes is great journalism. And, it is the stuff of hyperlocal journalism at its best. Changing mainstream media is a daunting task at the best of times. But, here is an excellent first step.