Thursday, March 24, 2011

What does localization mean?

Some web news publishers, like and some assignments at the Yahoo! Contributor Network ask news writers to contribute localized news stories. If news happens in your home town, that's easy, but if you happen to live in a little backwater town where the biggest news is that the only gas station in town ran out of premium gasoline for three hours on Thursday, then it can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with other ways to localize news content.

Localization simply means to make the story particularly meaningful to readers in your community. Depending upon the assignment or Examiner title you have, that may be your city, county, state or even multi-state region. There are a myriad of ways to accomplish this task for almost any major national or international news story.

A simple way to add a local angle to a national news story is to ask yourself a series of questions:

Could it happen here? Why or why not?

How does it affect my community? This one is terribly broad - thinking just about the tsunami in Japan, it could include such topics as: Will any radiation reach us here? Is imported Japanese food safe to eat? Has business at a local Japanese restaurant dropped? Will it take longer to get the new iPad (due to lack of Japanese made semiconductors)? Will the local Nissan dealer/factory face supply issues?

Are any individuals in my community particularly affected? People with family in the affected area, exchange students from the area, local volunteers going to help, someone just returned a day before the event and avoided near disaster, someone who had been planning a future visit

Is there a local expert who can help my readers understand the issue? Professors at a local college with particular expertise about the event or local rescue workers/firemen/ police/ doctors talking about the nature of rescue efforts in the affected area, for example

Have local officials made any statements about the event? Are we prepared? Does this affect the future of nuclear power in our state? Are steps being taken to address potential safety issues? Did the local congressman express condolences?

Do I have any relevant personal experience related to this event? Has anything from your past given you special insight into the event? For example, "Running a small family farm in Biloxi, Miss., we have experienced any number of weather-related or other events that have hurt my yield, but the thought of our spinach, cows, or the very ground itself being contaminated with radiation from a nuclear plant dozens of miles away..."

Even localized sstories about national or global news events require good research on the original event. You should include early on in the article all the relevant facts about the event (from properly cited original sources as I mentioned yesterday) since this is the foundation upon which you'll build the local part of the story. In addition, you'll likely have research at the local level, finding and interviewing someone, local news broadcasts, or newspapers. Even off-line sources need to be cited.

The plus side of writing localized content is that it is much more likely to be a unique take on an event about which many, many articles have already been written. The down side is that it may not appeal to an audience as broad as a national news item without localization. This is not always the case, however. Sometimes, particularly compelling local stories can find a national audience.

In any case, always pay attention to the guidelines, ground rules, and other guidance provided by the publisher for whom the work is intended with regard to localization.

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