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The Rapidian is one year old and growing wiser.
Has it been a year already?
The Rapidian’s one-year birthday is today, Sept. 15. Looking back on these past 12 months, we’ve all learned a lot from the community, our contributors, our partners and our readers. Today, The Rapidian officially ends its beta phase. As we cross this threshold, it’s apparent that this project has experienced some success in filling a demand for hyperlocal news in Grand Rapids.
Our approach to organizing reporters has become more specific now that we have gotten to know who our contributors are and which gaps they can best fill. Along with this, our coverage areas have broadened. Reporters for The Rapidian still focus on the City of Grand Rapids, but they are now exploring different ways of investigating, observing and reporting events.
Whether it’s through word of mouth, on the Internet, radio (now that The Rapidian has partnered with Community Media Center's Catalyst Radio, which airs on WYCE), off a T-shirt or button, or some other sensory appeal, The Rapidian's presence has been growing. The site now has 206 reporters, 13 editorial mentors and 128 active nonprofit users with hundreds more registered users, several who comment actively.
“The idea of the Rapidian is catching on more and more and people are thinking of empowering themselves with the gift of journalism,” said Rapidian reporter Michael Tuffelmire.
We've tried to keep up with users' demands by offering new features and categories to highlight our content. With each improvement, we've seen more usage. Community Media Center Executive Director and Rapidian Publisher Laurie Cirivello said The Rapdian’s social media presence has increased as well, which compounds our efforts to bring news to the community.
“At the beginning, about 40% of our visitors arrived via social media. Now it's over 54%. This shows that not only does the community's participation in reporting matter, but we also rely on the community to help distribute the content by sharing and reposting liberally,” she said.
The news of hyperlocal news has spread to more than just readers.
“Once a niche term, it is a centerpiece of almost all media efforts these days. This has increased our credibility and we have seen new invitations for partnerships by more traditional platforms,” Cirivello said.
Denise Cheng, The Rapidian’s Citizen Journalism Coordinator, said that hyperlocal news coverage is essentially the original type of coverage published by media outlets, and that it is once again coming to the forefront.
“As reporters acclimate themselves to hyperlocal coverage, redundancy in overall media is going down,” Cheng said. “Reporters are really digging deeper into their own interests, their neighborhoods to cull stories that seem so commonplace to those residents. They're realizing that while they might take it for granted, those stories aren't reflected in the mediascape.”
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has played a critical role in the creation and growth of The Rapidian, demostrating the extreme value of a good partnership. They have provided leadership, project marketing and funding to get the Rapidian off the ground. Their confidence in the project continues to act as a catalyst for growth and increased community awareness.
Most obviously, The Rapidian would not exist were it not for some dedicated reporters, so here are several memorable pieces from our first year:
- We started with an influx of ArtPrize coverage in 2009, including a wealth of profiles from one Grand Rapids Community College class.
- Our stance on identity is key.
- We lost a friend and team member, Drew Storey.
- A Rapidian reporter catches some hot breaking news.
- Ruth Terry on finding the state that fits.
- Ryan Hipp's photo essay on Grand Rapids' graffiti.
- Grand Valley State University students collaborate on education coverage.
- Matthew Altena’s audible adventure in a boxing ring.
- Roberta King’s ten-part series of runner profiles participating in the Riverbank run.
- The Rapidian makes a splash at the WMPRSA awards.
- Douglas Dooley’s brush with hip-hop greatness.
- Michael Tuffelmire and Nick Manes explore Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood in three parts.
- Carolyn Schaut doesn't chicken out when it comes to local government coverage.
Rest assured that The Rapidian will continue to be a reliable source for hyperlocal news coverage in the years to come as long as Grand Rapids is populated by those willing enough to tell others about the events and issues in the community.
I like to ride bikes, make cookies and feed the homeless peanut butter sandwiches. I really like Grand Rapids.