Pubcasting leaders have been talking up the opportunity to fill the void left by ailing newspapers by stepping up online coverage of local news, and the NYTimes.com has already unveiled an experimental website aimed in that direction. The Local, which launched yesterday with coverage of three New Jersey communities, is exploring “how to serve and engage audiences in new ways,” writes Times‘ veteran Tina Kelley, who runs the site with three journalism students. “This is not a we-talk-at-you-and-you-listen kind of site,” Kelly writes. “The Local will be built and maintained with your help, contributions, advice, admonitions, creations, words and pictures. And, yes, I suspect with your heckling, too.” In addition to stories on train delays, snow day school closings and deer population control, the site showcases artwork of local students on “The Fridge” and sponsors a New Yorker-style cartoon caption contest.
UPDATE: Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, two neighborhoods in Brooklyn, also get “The Local” treatment. Andy Newman, a veteran Times staffer who’s managing the site, describes it “as a glorious if cacophonous chorus of your voices singing the song of life itself in these astoundingly varied and vibrant neighborhoods.”