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August 01, 2006


Lisa Williams


Personally, I think the term "citizen journalism" focuses the debate around what newspapers do well. We're not asking the question, how well do community newspapers connect citizens to each other? If we did, the results would be different. In any case, trying to figure out whether a placeblog is a good or bad newspaper obscures almost anything we could learn about each other.

Personally, I don't think local sites are actually in competition with newspapers. I did a presentation on what I like to call "placeblogs" at yesterday's citizen journalism gathering at Harvard. I'm working on collecting a list of 1,000 placeblogs in the US. I'm up to about 350 having gone through only 13 states. I think part of the reason why the conversation on blogs and journalism has gotten so stale is that the same few examples of placeblogs are used, when in fact there are hundreds of placeblogs and there's a lot of variety within placeblogs.

If you look here you can find a link to my slides.

kpaul mallasch

First, thanks for the link/mention. ;)

I like the way you've categorized the evolution of things so far. Don't count out the regional independents yet, though. A lot of us realize the need to do more 'serious' journalism. We know that takes money, though. The trick is going to be in raising money through the existing sites (with our bake sale stories) while building a bond with the community. At some point (at least in my plan) there will be paid reporters, stringers, photogs, etc.

The problem is that MSM skipped a lot of steps because they have a large (huge!) warchest available to them. They're missing the point of it, though, I think in that thing you mentioned about them maybe wanting to replace rather than supplement traditional (paid, professional) reporters. They're looking at ways to continue dominating the market and keep their 20%+ profit margins.

On the other side, the independents, for the most part I think, are really wanting to give the power of media back to the people. Sure, we'll still have gatekeepers and what-not, but I for one want to have paid stringers and reporters out in the field.

I also want to say that I'm trying to do more of the type of journalism that rights public wrongs, but the biggest obstacle at this point is time and money (very related...) Here in Indiana, I've started tying together loose groups of people in various counties who are fighting CAFOs, which are invading our state at an alarming rate, with very little regulations in place to stop us from becoming like North Carolina, Michigan, and other states where the factory farms have come in, ruined the environment, then moved on.

I don't know, there's a long way to go, but in the end I think the 'hyperlocals' as you call us will eventually make the jump to the next evolutionary step - at least making enough money to start hiring people.

I applaud Rosen and his work with NewAssignment.net, though. So many people have told me that to be successful I had to have 100 or more cookie cutter sites spread across the country. I want to stick to my little region for the moment, though. Like Hannibal, I'm picking the battleground for the moment and rallying the countryside against Rome (Gannett)...

Anyway, thanks for the great/thoughtful piece.


Gordon Joseloff

Lisa Williams writes: "Personally I don't think local sites are actually in competition with newspapers."

At WestportNow, a mixture of professional and citizen journalists, that's not completely true. Take Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006, for example. WestportNow's output for the day included more than a dozen photographs and stories. Included were exclusive photos of two Saturday night/Sunday morning spot stories - four youths from neighboring Bridgeport crashing a stolen car in Westport and, a roll-over on I-95 in Westport with a rescue.

There was also exclusive coverage of 267 applicants showing up on a Sunday morning to take a firefighting exam, feature photos of a couple strolling a the beach and of a fisherman making a catch, coverage of a minor fire call at a supermarket, and a photo of an evening outdoor concert. In addition, there was a story of some downed trees that caused power outages for hundreds of residents. All this in less than 24 hours. It was a busier Sunday than usual for sure.

Westport's two newspapers -- one that publishes Wednesday and Friday and the other that publishes every Thursday - may or may not catch up with some of these stories three or four days from now. If they do, it most likely it will be via a police handout without any photos.

My point is that news occurs seven days a week. And Westport residents no longer have to rely solely on coverage (or non-coverage) from weekly newspapers or occasional stories in neighboring dailies. They can read - and interact - with the news almost as it happens through WestportNow. And it is news covered by their friends and neighbors who are genuinely interested in making sure Westport is an informed community, even on weekends and holidays.

tish grier

Interesting stuff, Chirs...but two points not addressed that are important to some kinds of citizen journalism:

Sites that dig up info that would languish in specialty pubications and (to stress a point in Gordon's comment) interaction.

The internet allows for quick discovery of information that may be important but gets underreported--such as the vote on the DOPA legislation and the current goings-on with the FCC and ClearChannel. Part of the mission of some citizen journalism is to bring this stuff to the surface so that individuals can not only read but discuss it, elaborate on it (as in "what you can do about it" stuff).

This resembles your idea of Indymedia, but I think it's a bit different. Take a look at ePluribus Media, which has a variety of things going on including a journal for longer pieces (that are edited and fact-checked) as well as timelines, etc.

Some migh call this as a form of activism--but aren't some kinds of professional journalism also activism? What's the difference between a site like ePM and a local alternative paper, other than that ePM is put together by "citizens."

Interaction is also key to the success of many citizen journalism projects. Interaction sometimes adds to stories, corrects them, or simply stimulates conversation around what is reported. The sites become small town squares with conversation localized around the stories. This promotes discourse as well as making the reporter accountable in a somewhat different way than might be at a daily paper that vets its Letters to the Editor.

I giggled a bit when you said I also thin that its amazing that the conversation has gotten as far as it has in such a short period of time...yes, it's amazing, but if you spend any considerable lenght of time involved in this space, you'll get a better sense of the quickness of communication. When the least experienced can comment and discuss aspects of journalism (or anything) with the most experienced ---either directly in comments or via linking--without the delays of censorship that are inherent in most professional journalism, is it any wonder that the advancement of ideas would happen much faster? Out here, it's as much about the conversation stimulated by content as it is about the content itself :-)


Appreciated the two part article, as someone who has a hyper local site. It is in essence a blog, but fills a critical gap as we have two regional daily publications, and two weekly (advertising based), but no "traditional media" focused on the community.

I also keep a behind the scenes blog and quoted you extensively in a recent post regarding the classification and possible certification of various community sites and placeblogs.

You can read it here:


Thanks for the overview and history of this exciting media segment.

Best wishes,


jatinder Kaur

Young Indian research Journalists starts Citizen Journalism In India

A community news portal www.citizenxpress.com has been laucnhed in india by group of young indian research Journalists in december 2006.

The community new portal www.citizenxpress.com is research work of ABC Media Research and Development Center, the research wing of ABC News Network Private limited .This portal is fully dedicated to the cause of citizen involved journalism popularly called CITIZEN JOURNALISM. All news and information have their sources in citizens. They create news and information or witness the news but they have no relevance in news gathering, processing and publishing system of contempory media. The citizen journalism is the voices of all those citizens who are creating or witnessing news and information around them, the citizenxpress is an open platform for all those citizens.

Now a day’s fascinating proverb is being engineered i.e. for all (4 all).like education for all, health for all, justice for all etc but participation by all is no where in their agenda. This gives impressions that all who want to do some thing for all still not willing to relinquish their position of givers. Which always reflect in their actions vice versa. So there is urgent need of a platform, where all will act as givers as well as takers. Flow of knowledge can be from either sides depending on the need and requirements of situation.

Flag Story


very interesting.
i'm adding in RSS Reader


What do you mean ?


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Nice read! Have a good christmas and new year. Thanks, from the UK.

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