Sunday, April 22, 2007

Local Newspaper embraces Citizen Journalism

Some newsrooms are still debating if readers on the Net should be able to comment freely the news stories, while others are embracing the readers' opinions. The local newspaper "The Hartsville Messenger" has for a year gone further, letting the readers freely publish their own stories, adding a citizen journalism site to the news site, making it a part of their publication. The experiment was run by Douglas J. Fisher, Instructor University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications and Graham Osteen, Publisher of The Hartsville Messenger, with funding from the Knight Foundation.

Conclusion: Citizens aren't journalists, but cit-journalism is a good source of stories for the news room. So it's a good idea to assign journalists to follow it. Be certain to include a date book in the site and let the users upload pictures. Be active in recruiting users, they won't appear by themselves. Keep in touch with community groups, etc. There is no business model for it yet, but on the other hand the investments are moderate. The publisher expects to spend 10.000 USD this year on the citizen journalism site. Maybe he should look closer at Red Herring founder Tony Perkins AlwaysOn-GoingOn project. Tony is working on a business model for blogospheres - something that seems pretty close to where citizen journalism ended up having its focus in the Hartsville experiment.

The Hartsville report is available on the j-lab website.

Jan Sandred showed when setting up Biotech Sweden a number of years ago that an innovation system can offer a great readership and produce good advertising. An innovation ecosystem has parallels to a local community, and it would be interesting to see trade journals follow the example of Hartsville. PC World and CNET are already very close to their readers, often changing stories after publication due to reader comments.

/David Nordfors

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