micro-local news

Free advice … Today I met with the Washington Center for Internships to discuss possible ways to evaluate their program, and then went to Streetlaw, Inc. for their winter Board meeting. (Streetlaw provides a textbook, training, institutes, and other support for teaching about law and politics in schools.) Finally, I joined my colleagues on the Advisory Board of the J-Lab New Voices Project . Thanks to the Knight Foundation, New Voices will be able to fund “20 micro-local news projects” in which citizens generate information, commentary, and discussion for their communities. J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, will also collect or create software and other support that anyone will be able to use for interactive or community news.

We discussed some existing projects and products that exemplify community news on the Web. Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine was the source for most of these references. (On his blog, he says that he was in DC to meet with his CIA handlers, but they must have got to him later in the day.)

  • In Bakersfield, CA, residents of the northwestern part of the city produce all the content for an online newspaper that is also printed and distributed (with paid advertising). Essentially, everyone in the community can post blog entries with news, announcements, and opinions. However, thanks to clever use of iupload software, individual posts are classified in appropriate ways, producing a site that looks more like a newspaper than a blog. Simple announcements appear on a calendar. Crime reports go on a map. Sports news would be classified under “sports.” Anything that an individual writes is also saved under her or his name, thus producing a traditional blog for each contributor. And a chief blogger puts the best posts on the main page.
  • Journalism students at Northwestern University quickly built an impressive community news site for Skokie, Il (GoSkokie), for which they and citizens produce content.
  • A “wiki” is a webpage that anyone can edit online. Wikipedia has turned into an amazing repository of information, thanks to untold thousands of volunteer contributors. Apparently, the same folks are working on a “newswiki” that could be used to describe events in a community. Anyone could add (or delete) text.
  • MIT hosts three community news sites for and by retirees, known as “silver stringers.” The same format has been borrowed by groups abroad and by youth groups.
  • (See also Leslie Walker’s recent Washington Post story on Bakersfield and GoSkokie.)

    3 thoughts on “micro-local news

    1. Anna

      Excellent! So they have some knowledgeable bloggers on board.

      Who else besides you and Jeff Jarvis is on the Advisory Board? How often will the group be ‘meeting’?

      Is J-Lab going to be blogging the direction-forming and decisionmaking process, or will that be your bailiwick?

      (personally I’d prefer to see the blogging be done by a blogger, otherwise it’s likely to be a PR outlet)

      To what degree will they be soliciting input from the public? What does the timeline look like (including the points along it)?

      I posted some suggestions for things to fund in a PressThink comment ( http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/12/01/glaser_co.html#comment14553 ) – an addition to which would be “support for setting up/publicizing/seeding a Wikipedia for the community’s local history”

    2. Peter Levine

      I don’t think that J-Lab plans to describe their decision-making process in an official blog. I may not go into too much detail, either, since it’s not for me to decide what discussions and decisions should be publicized and when. I am confident, however, that the J-Lab people will welcome advice. Email Jan Shaffer or any of the good folks there. Or email me (plevine@umd.edu) and I’ll circulate your message to the staff and board. I love your suggestions on PressThink.

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