In the French-speaking part of the world there used to be, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a television show called "La course autour du monde" ("The globetrotting race"). Ten young would-be television reporters from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada were sent for one year around the world, free to choose their itinerary, equipped with a super-8 video camera (and, within a certain budget, with all expenses covered). Every week they had to mail their tapes to the show's headquarter in Paris, accompanied with written editing instructions. The reports were edited and produced in Paris, rated by a jury, and broadcast in all the participating countries. At the end of the year, one of the competitors would be declared the winner -- and none spared efforts to find original subjects to cover, travel farther than the others, and imagine new ways to tell a story. I was moving my first steps in local journalism and followed the "Course" with awe.
Take the "Course", mix it with light digital cameras, laptops, cell phones and blogs, and you get "Blogtrotter", the new initiative of the Swiss weekly L'Hebdo. The newsmagazine (disclaimer: they're one of my clients) just launched a selection process to identify five young people (age 18 to 26) from the French part of Switzerland whom it will fit with all the above equipment plus expenses, coaching by the mag's journalists and logistic support, and let loose over Europe during July and August. Task: each will travel to seven European cities of her/his choice (one per week) and post their reports, insights, observations, pictures, etc, several times a day on the collective Blogtrotter blog. Every week, the best contribution will be published in the magazine, along with a status report on the five blogtrotters' whereabouts and work. At the end of the Summer, the best blogtrotter will be offered a job-plus-training in the magazine's newsroom. (In case you feel like applying: details on the casting here. Deadline: May 31st).
L'Hebdo has been experimenting for a while with innovative usage of blogs and other online tools, working at the intersection of print and online in the conviction that they are mutually reinforcing (what elsewhere I've called "hybrid media"). The magazine has become well-known around the world for the BondyBlog, the blog started by its journalists after the riots in the French "banlieues" at the end of 2005 and which is now run by young "citizen journalists" from those same banlieues and inspiring other similar exercises elsewhere (I've chronicled that inspiring story here and here and here). Blogtrotter has the potential to become another trailblazing use of new digital tools at the service of storytelling.
Truth be told, other blogs that L'Hebdo has launched, written by its journalists and columnists with a more traditional approach, have encountered a mixed success (see a list here, where LunchOverIP is also linked from). The most successful have been those that have used the tool to do things that print can't do (check out music critic Christophe Schenk's made-for-download compilation of music from young Swiss talents) or to engage in vigorous discussions with readers on political and economic issues (see Guy Sorman).