Saturday, December 13, 2008

Citizen Journalism

Since January 2008, I've been a member of the board of Northfield.org. The mission of Northfield.org is to be "an electronic commons that strengthens the fabric of community in the greater Northfield area...by publishing stories and event listings from any and all members of the community and providing access to existing community resources and online content from local citizens and organizations." Anyone in the Northfield area who has a story to share or an event to promote can publish directly to Northfield.org, provided that a few simple guidelines are followed.

Since its inception in the 1990s, Northfield.org has evolved into more of an electronic community bulletin board than an outlet for the reporting of local news. A few years ago, Griff Wigley, one of the founders of Northfield.org, spun off to create his own group blog, LocallyGrown, which—along with its companion radio show and podcast—does feature hard news and commentary about local issues. Earlier this year, LocallyGrown teamed up with reporter Bonnie Obremski to provide local Representative Journalism. But LocallyGrown doesn't solicit content from its readers. LoGroNo isn't true citizen journalism a community blog* that involves local citizens in the collection and dissemination of news and information. It's a civic-minded group blog with a thriving comments section that invites both controversy and connectedness.

What would true participatory citizen journalism in Northfield look like?

One national model for online citizen journalism is provided by The Examiner.com, which has launched local versions in several cities across the United States, including Minneapolis. The Examiner employs "local informed insiders" to write and publish local stories about their particular area of interest and expertise: stories about local arts and entertainment, or sports, or business, or education. Writers are paid a fee per 1,000 page views. The Examiner.com is owned by the same parent company that owns print newspapers like the San Francisco Examiner, Clarity Media Group, an affiliate of the huge entertainment conglomerate AEG. But despite its corporate lineage, The Examiner.com is positioning itself to become "a bastion of citizen journalism" with its network of local "Examiners."

My wife's cousin, Elizabeth Kurtz, has recently been hired as the DC Military Community Examiner. Her stories cover all aspects of the military community in Washington, D.C. Recent stories range from an interview with Colonel Dennis M. Layendecker, the music director of the U.S. Air Force Band, to a story about the dedication of the new columbarium (a structure for the inurnment of ashes) in Arlington National Cemetery. She also publishes great photographs of service men and women in action, and a "today in military history" feature. Elizabeth is a recent Harvard graduate, and also studied in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. She's a lifelong resident of D.C., and currently volunteers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She's also a sympathetic observer and a talented writer. I've known and admired her since she was a little girl, and I recommend that you head over to The Examiner and run up her page view counts.

*Update: See Griff's comments, and my response, here on Locally Grown.

3 comments:

Griff Wigley said...

Rob, I've responded to this blog post at:
http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/7160/

I'm not sure pingbacks/trackbacks work with Blogger so I'm posting this comment here.

enaj said...

Thanks, Rob, for setting in motion this long delayed discussion. I hope the NCO annual meeting will be as lively as this promises to be.

Elizabeth said...

Why, thanks for the props! I'm touched. :)

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