Hyperlocal News the Old Fashioned Way: The Yard Sign
news need not be delivered on the Web or Twitter, it may well be in the
backyard. This was driven home for me this past weekend when I rode my
bike through many of the towns between Wellesley and Bourne,
Massachusetts. The route covered mostly back roads through residential
neighborhoods. These green lawns are the real home of hyperlocal news
and opinion, as they are the homes of yard signs. I certainly saw
plenty of political signs in yards during last fall's presidential
election, but during late summer 2009 the yard signs I saw focused on
very local concerns. These were concerns that had not reached me
listening to my local public radio station's local news.
One sign I saw read: "MBTA - Go the other way!" MBTA is Massachusetts
Bay Transportation Authority, the state's public transit organization.
I believe I saw that one in Foxboro or Walpole. That made no sense to
me until this week when our governor announced the Economic Development
and Land Use Corridor Plan for the proposed South Coast Rail
line between Boston and the south coast of the state (an economically
challenged area). It would, assuming projections are correct, add
considerable short-term construction jobs and a decent number of
permanent ones. It might also double the population of the towns in the
But the original signs with this slogan are far older than this summer.
They date back to 2000 when the first proposal came out and a group
protesting this alternative route, Citizens Concerned About Tracks,
was formed. The group had the signs made and waged a successful campaign to
lay this route to rest. But the route is back in play as the
governor rekindles his campaign promise to get the line built. And so
the signs have reappeared.
The other curious hyperlocal yard sign I saw was in Berkley (yes, it's
spelled without an "e" where most would have one). It said, "No quarry
for Berkley." That's the name of the website
for the organization behind the sign. Cape Cod Aggregates has proposed
a 45 acre quarry in a residential area of Berkley which prompted the
Now that I know more about the goals of the signs, I wonder about the
intent of those who placed them. Do the homeowners simply want their
neighbors to know "where they stand" on the issues? Are the signs aimed
at visitors like me who might join the cause? Are they educational,
meant to inform all residents about issues relevant to the local
community? I'm sure the answer includes some of all of these ideas
along with others. Still the "reach" of the signs is rather limited in
these low traffic (pedestrian, car, bike, etc.) areas.
Some find such signs eyesores. I like them. They are the epitome of
local news; they state "something important is happening here" and you
need to know about it." It's completely different from news from the
radio, TV or Web that's happening (or happened) "somewhere else." This
news is happening right here, right now. Clearly, there's still a place
for "old fashioned" hyperlocal news publishing via yard signs, even if
the signs themselves point you to a website for more information!