When I was starting out as a newspaper reporter, Ronald Reagan was in his first term as U.S. President, there were three main choices on television and “hyperlocal journalism” meant that I had a lot of energy pedaling my bicycle around town in pursuit of my next story for the Marshfield (Ma.) Mariner.

But now “hyperlocal” is part of our desperately fragmented communications culture. Media outlets, especially newspapers, are busily trying to outdo one another with coverage of your backyard—and if that’s not personal enough, maybe even that patch of dirt on the edge of your backyard (with photos and bar charts!).

Today’s Chicago Tribune included a piece by Bonnie Miller Rubin (“Pitch writ large aimed at Oprah”) that highlighted an advertising companion to this approach. Let’s call it Hyper-Oprahism.

A charitable organization that has tried to get her attention via the traditional route (pitching stories to her show’s producers for a decade) placed seven billboard ads that were addressed specifically to Oprah:

“Oprah, 3 million children with clefts need our help,” declares The Smile Train message. ”We need yours.”

Though the gurus at Harpo Productions are still declining to profile the group, the Trib’s piece—and the guaranteed spin-off stories it will spawn—can’t help but boost the organization’s fund-raising efforts.

In the end, The Smile Train should be smiling even more broadly–and so will anyone who takes a cue from their out-of-the-box approach.

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