Kittens and curbsides: The state of local micromedia

[From The A.V. Club Chicago, with David Wolinsky / January 7, 2010]

As experts, prognosticators, and major media product launches have insisted over and over, hyperlocal online coverage is the wave of the future—but no one seems to know how local is too local. A ZIP code? A ward? A city block? The answers vary as widely the subjects, placing every Uptown Update or Avondale and Logan Square Crime Blotter next to countless others aiming for smaller topics (which may be admirably higher or woefully lower, depending on your point of view). Always on the hunt for things to do on the Internet, The A.V. Club took a walk through some of the lesser-known Chicago blogs and found a city expectedly eager to document itself—and surprisingly specific in what it deems worthy of documenting in the first place.

Rogers Park Cheetos
Focus: Compiling a visual diary of empty Cheetos bags spotted littering the streets of Rogers Park, Estes Dude has at once created a hilarious photo essay and a thought-provoking discourse on the casual nature of urban pollution. The minimal commentary (usually limited to the location of the titular bags) keeps the message strictly on-point, while the fantastic sidebar mini-essays remind readers that the neighborhood’s not defined by its junk food—just by its junk.
Too localized?: Not at all. By restricting his findings to the Cheetos bags of Rogers Park, Estes Dude gives character to otherwise nondescript street trash and paints a picture of beloved sidewalks, lawns, and alleyways soiled by the laziness of Cheetos-eating passersby.

Hyde Park Cats
Focus: Established in March 2008, Hyde Park Cats works to find homes for stray and feral cats found around Hyde Park (and reunite lost cats and dogs with their owners) while its volunteers provide foster homes. And come on, who doesn’t love looking at pictures of kittens? We certainly do.

Too localized?: Yes, but in a good way. Any kind of animal-rescue operation is a tremendous undertaking, sometimes sacrificing quality for quantity. In (generally) sticking to its specific mission, Hyde Park Cats has been able to help both of its namesakes repeatedly.

The Lake Street Lookout
Focus: Lake Street Lookout keeps tabs on crime, boorishness, and other un-neighborly activity stemming from the clubs around Lake Street and Halsted Avenue. Relentless in its pursuit to clean up the neighborhood, the site’s owner and author was responsible for capturing the shooting that ultimately led to troubled nearby nightclub Chromium’s December 2007 closure.

Too localized?: Not really, though disruptive, drunken (and often violent) behavior isn’t the only problem plaguing Halsted and Lake, and it isn’t the city’s only haven for unruly clubgoers.

24/7 North Of Howard Watchers
Focus: Another Rogers Park blog, 24/7 blends a pair of personal diaries on neighborhood life with news and announcements, its results ranging from reports on community centers in progress to refreshers on local ordinances and grimy photos.

Too localized?: Technically. “North of Howard” implies coverage of the full eight miles from Howard Street and Eastlake Terrace at the easternmost point to Howard’s western end at Overhill Avenue in Park Ridge, but 24/7 sticks to Rogers Park (and specifically the area near the Howard Red Line stop). Not to worry: Another site has the Park Ridge beat covered.

Around And In 60655
Focus: Hard to tell. Although generally living up to its billing as “a fair and objective neighborhood resource” for Mt. Greenwood, the site fluctuates between an open forum for community goings-on and threats to dissolve the site over lack of interest or slanderous comments left by trolls.

Too localized?: Yes and no. As an events calendar, Around And In certainly brings worthwhile events to the attention of an audience that might otherwise never hear about them, but its continual references to flame wars puts considerable burden on non-regulars trying to understand what the hell is going on in the first place.

I Hate Clark Street!
Focus: Self-proclaimed iO freelance improv consultant Jason Chin has lived and worked on Clark Street for seven years, and he remembers a time when the sidewalks near the improv theater and Wrigley Field weren’t “festooned with cigarettes and vomit” (though they’ve been that way a lot longer than seven years). While it might be impossible for any of us to see Wrigleyville as anything but a frathouse, Chin celebrates his ambivalence with a lengthy stretch of Clark Street by intermittently uploading photos of its overflowing trash cansdiscarded condoms, and general shittiness left behind by drunk Cubs.

Too localized?: Hardly. IHCS is the visual equivalent of Overheard In Chicago, and the frequent updates offer Chicagoans a sort of digital cultural time capsule. In the futuristic year of 2010, can we really believe that our primitive ancestors were only able to communicate with one another by scrawling the word “poop” on the dusty storefront of an abandoned pizzeria?

Third & Delaware
Pretty obvious. “Fashion highlights from every single episode of Roseanne” is proudly plastered on every tirelessly assembled page on this remarkably in-depth and bafflingly specific blog dedicated to the sitcom set in the fictional town of Lanford, Ill. Everything from one-off characters’ wardrobe choices as they relate to their character arcs to that oversized hoodie DJ wore in “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home” are lovingly documented with screen grabs and accompanying analyses that are either bitingly sarcastic or achingly earnest. “What says ‘We’ve still got the spark!’ more than a plaid shirt over a negligee, or pajamas that look like they came from a mental institution,” reads the caption for the above photo.

Too localized?: Perhaps. This level of pop-culture fandom astounds even us, but when The A.V. Club contacted Third & Delaware’s creator, we discovered it’s run by a self-described “23-year-old with too much time” unemployed Canadian named Kyle David Larsen Humphrey. If someone in Toronto can find something noteworthy in fashion from a sitcom set in Illinois that’s been off the air for more than a decade, maybe there’s no such thing as too local.