I\’m in the Lead of a Monitor Article

This is so exciting… Last night I posted about my new citizen journalism training project with Adam Glenn, I, Reporter. There, I mentioned that I’d been interviewed on the topic of citizen journalism by the Christian Science Monitor

Correspondent Randy Dotinga told me he expected the article to run Monday. Much to my delight, I just found out that the online version has already been posted – and I’m in the lead! Way cool!

See: Write the News Yourself. It’s an excellent beginner’s overview of the emerging citJ field.

I’ll take a little break from building the I, Reporter site (due up later tonight) to share a few thoughts on this article, and on the other coverage this project is already receiving from various quarters…

ABOUT THE MONITOR ARTICLE

First of all, I didn’t expect to be in the lead. I was honored and floored by that. Wait until my parents see it!

I wish that the Monitor could have included a link to CONTENTIOUS so it would be easy for readers to follow this project, but I understand that links are a low priority in newspaper journalism. I’m not hard to find online, anyway.

Dotinga identified me as a “community activist.” Well, I’ve never called myself that – and frankly with my journalism background I’m not personally comfortable being called an activist. However, in the context of this project I guess I am being a community activist in terms of spearheading citizen journalism. That’s fine.

However, I wish to make it clear that I am definitely not an activist on the particular local development controversy my citizen reporting team will be covering (Hogan-Pancost).

It’s possible that my team may include some activists (or at least people with strong views) about this controversy. However, it’s my belief that even activists and participants in local issues can contribute good journalism – as long as they apply sound journalism skills and exercise scrupulous transparency.

In general, citJ will likely attract many activists, since activists of various stripes have an inherent motivation to contribute to the public conversation. That’s one reason why I believe the team reporting approach can do much to strengthen the credibility and quality of citJ overall.

…That’s what I believe so far, anyway. In I, Reporter Adam and I will be covering how well that plays out in the real world. We’ll see…

I’m pleased that the online editor of my local paper, the Boulder Daily Camera, welcomes and supports my nascent team reporting project. I actually just cooked this whole thing up very recently and haven’t even had time to talk to the editorial staff at the Camera about it yet. I’ve been too busy on other projects and rounding up my reporting team. So the Monitor reporter broke the news to them. That’s how it goes sometimes, but it looks like they’re rolling with it, so that’s cool.

Ideally I would like to do some coordination with professional local reporters on this project, so that my team’s coverage would complement mainstream media coverage. We’re all on information overload so there’s no need for duplication. That said, I don’t intend for this team to become an arm of any media organization. I want this project to be editorially independent.

We will probably leverage the infrastructure of a local citizen journalism site. Both the Camera and the Rocky Mountain News offer such sites. It’s also possible we may publish our stories entirely independently. I’m considering all those options – and my team will have a lot to say about this decision, I’m sure. Ultimately, this reporting project is for their benefit.

In the Monitor, Dotinga wrote:

“Extra [newsroom] staffers [for online or citJ projects] are costly, too, and cash-strapped papers aren’t throwing money around. Whatever is spent on these online experiments, publishers hope they will attract wayward readers and boost the bottom line. It seems reasonable to focus on the Internet: 1 in 5 readers prefers newspaper websites to printed editions, states a new Nielsen/NetRatings survey.”

That’s an excellent point – and that’s exactly why Adam and I hope to use I, Reporter as a vehicle to foster collaboration and coordination between citizen and professional journalists.

In the long run, it probably makes more sense for media companies and journalism organizations to fund training and mentoring for citizen journalists and the pros who work with them, rather than simply build costly ad-laden sites based on the “If you build it, they will come” philosophy. If you’re relying on independently produced free content in your business model, shouldn’t you focus on fostering the human potential from which that great content will spring?

It pays to think long-term, even from the beginning.

BUZZ AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

I was also amazed to see a fair amount of instant coverage of I, Reporter on various weblogs today. Thanks to my blogging colleagues for their support and interesting observations. I hope I, Reporter and my local reporting project don’t disappoint you. Any major public undertaking is so much easier when colleagues from around the world voice their support.

Here’s a quick rundown of the major blog coverage so far: