“If the human race is still here in 100 years, it will be because of lots of people doing lots of little things,” said Pete Seeger in the February 2011 issue of Chronogram. One could certainly say the rise of local and hyper-local blogs, which see individuals passionate about their communities stepping up to give voice to news and views not being adequately addressed by traditional local media, as a perfect example of what the legendary activist-folksinger had in mind. Generally speaking, local blogs tend to focus on a slightly larger region (a city or town and its outlying areas), while hyperlocals zero in on a specific neighborhood, in some cases covering a microscopic radius of just a few blocks. On the web, Columbia County has a handful of such sites, but perhaps the two most prominent are The Gossips of Rivertown and SamPratt.com.
“I started The Gossips of Rivertown in January 2010,” says Carole Osterink, a school textbook editor and former City of Hudson Common Council member, “because I found it frustrating that a lot of the people I knew here in town, especially the newer ones, viewed local government as ‘the establishment’ and weren’t getting enough information about it.” Billed on its banner as “News and Commentary about the City of Hudson, New York,” The Gossips, which could be considered a hyper-local due to its focus on mainly intracity topics, evolved out of an earlier blog, First Ward Hudson. In her religiously daily posts, Osterink covers general neighborhood doings as well as those at and behind town and planning board meetings; the often heated intersection of development and historical preservation is one of The Gossips’s central concerns.
A journalist whose resume includes Esquire, SPIN, New York magazine, and other noteworthy publications, Sam Pratt has been blogging in some form or another since 2003. Well known as a watchdog activist, he’s led numerous successful grassroots battles, most notably the thwarting of the Saint Lawrence Cement company’s plans to build a massive, potentially toxic, coal-fired plant in the area. His local blog, SamPratt.com, encompasses subjects within the county seat, but also casts its net beyond Hudson’s city limits to take in smaller Columbia County towns (such as Taghanik, where he lives), as well as those in Greene, Ulster, Dutchess, and other neighboring counties. Although much of the content at the site that bears his name is serious in nature, Pratt, who tends to post less frequently than Osterink (“Sometimes I’ll wait four days, if nothing strikes my fancy”), also covers sports, music, nightlife, dining, humor, human interest, and lighter topics. “It’s a combination of news and the random overflow of my brain—whatever feels like it might be interesting,” explains Pratt. “When it comes to issues like open local government, taxation, or development, there usually isn’t enough looking done at the underlying causes of those things. It’s important to get that information out there, for people to be reminded of.” Gossipsofrivertown.blogspot.com Sampratt.com