Public Heist... Now
Washington, DC -- The meeting here Tuesday night, held in a sweltering conference room of the Cleveland Park public library, didn't have the star power cast attraction of Ocean's 11 or 12 or for that matter, Ocean's 13, but for the 35 or so folks that showed up and fought off the heat-induced drowsiness, they did get the inside scoop on how to pull of a high class heist and snag a significant section of cyberspace all for themselves.
Craftily disguised as a meeting to introduce NowPublic and the notion of citizen journalism to the residents of D.C.'s Cleveland Park neighborhood, the real payoff came when attendees learned that by simply choosing a unique keyword, phrase or hell, even a string of numbers, it's possible to carve out a space on NowPublic that is simply all their own; free of charge. Thank you, very much.
The attendees also learned that such power comes with a price: responsibility, accuracy, transparency, fairness; all tenets of good, solid journalism, whether it's practiced by salaried scribes or an off-duty cop that's seen too much and kept quiet for too long. Anyone can write a story, after all, you don't need a license to become a journalist. You just need to think through a set of logical steps, to which attendees at Tuesday's meeting were introduced in the form of a short presentation and a couple of photocopied handouts. Low-tech, high-touch. Local news, global reach. Bonus.
Let me repeat that: local news, global reach.
Got a problem with faulty fire hydrants? Got a particularly dangerous intersection in your neighborhood in need of a stoplight and no one willing to pony up the money to install it? Write about it. "All politics is local," said the late Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neil, one of the nation's most colorful politicians.
So flip O'Neil's saying on its head: all news is local... until it isn't. OK, so that sounds more like rocker Joe Walsh's classic "the smoker you drink, the player you get," but here's the point, the problems you're having are the same problems that tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of others across this country are having. And if you can find a solution--and write about it--maybe, just maybe that person in Seattle or St. Louis or Savannah or Sequatchie, Tennessee, can build on what you've written, and find other solutions that in turn help others. Then some hotshot reporter from some hotshot newspaper stumbles on your article and other articles that flow from it and he realizes that there's a national trend story here and writes it up and it becomes a full blown, coast to coast top o' the news story.
No, I'm not making this up. It can happen; it will happen. And the folks at Tuesday's meeting were there to learn how to juice the system to ensure that it does.
And here's the secret: tags. Oh... you feel little let down... stay with me.
Here on NowPublic, when you write your story, you're allowed to "tag" it with keywords. If you go into the NowPublic story editor you'll see a space to do this right near the bottom of the page. All you have to do to create your own unique space here; all you have to do to hi-jack the resources of NowPublic and put them at your beck and URL is to come up with a consistent and unique "tag."
And then all you do is point people to this secret NowPublic URL format: www.nowpublic.com/tag/MY_SPECIAL_TAG
Of course, you replace MY_SPECIAL_TAG with whatever your unique tag happens to be.
Try this: www.nowpublic.com/tag/dc and up pops stories about Washington, D.C.
Now, perhaps you're a bit more ambitious... you can create your own tag, your own "brand" if you will, and then spread that URL all over cyberspace, attach it to your signature, put it into banner format and plaster it on any electronic forum you choose. It will always lead back to your NowPublic page, with stories neatly laid out as if you owned the place... and that's something not even George Clooney can claim... yet.