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Grass Roots Journalism by Mid-Missourians
The citizen journalism route to
Clyde H. Bentley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism
Short circuiting the “priesthood”
Technologists empowered Heretics
The “other” side of journalism
Information from non-professional communicators
Civic club presentations
16 months with “citizens”
project under “The
http://mymissourian.com launched Oct. 1, 2004
Inspired by others
OhMyNews was well known to professors
and popular with our Korean students
Launch of Northwest Voice generated a
Dean Mills recognized the potential and
asked us to move quickly.
Proposed in late May 2004, launched
. “Can we proceed with all deliberate speed? I'm in no hurry. Next week would be soon
“”Can we proceed with all
deliberate speed? I'm in no
hurry. Next week would be
soon enough” - Dean Mills
“”Every citizen is a
journalist” - Dean
Mills - Oh Yeon-Ho
A challenge to tradition
Missouri is the home of traditional newspaper
Some faculty questioned the ability to maintain
Could we teach a journalism where “we” were
not in control?
So why do it?
To give voice to those traditionally excluded
from the media
To allow non-journalists to help set the
To test our knowledge of audience values
To train students in a new form of journalism
Oh, I forgot . . .
First three quarters, 2005
And to make money …
Newspaper Print and Online Revenues
First three quarters, 2005
Source: NAA Quarterly Newspaper
Online alone is not enough
A hybrid strategy
Gather content via an online citizen
Use that content to fill a printed TMC
Use revenue gains in TMC to underwrite
the online product
Which led to one more BIG goal…
End Driveway Rot!
TMC = The Money Cow
Total Market Coverage products often
produce a substantial portion of a
At the Missourian, our TMC is budgeted
at about 25% of our revenue but actually
brings in 33%.
Depending how you count it…
It more than adds up
“Also, we will do about $230,000 with the Real
Estate This Week magazine this year. That
would not be possible if we did not have the
Saturday TMC for distribution purposes.”
“What’s deceptive is that much of the daily
revenue comes from the TMC agreements
in a forced buy, so even more of our
revenue is the result of our TMCs.
Back to print
Print edition launched Oct.
Allows use of the efficient
advertising pattern of print
Increases readership by
Reverses the print-to-Web
Compelling content is the key
TMC’s are often filled with old, trivial or
Lack of reader interest can cause “pickup
Citizen-generated material is unduplicated,
compelling and does not compete with our own
Readers reach readers
“I have seen newspaper companies
spend thousand of dollars annually to
determine what readers expect.
Few of their findings, however, are
“The greatest benefit of what we
have done with MyMissourian is we
have given newsroom leaders an
inexpensive and effective way to
give readers what they truly want.”
Hans K. Meyer
Citizen journalism succeeds where others have failed.
Is there a future for
YES -- both professional and citizen journalists
Blogs pose both a threat and an opportunity
The power relationship in information is being
Journalists provide continuity and quality
Story tellers become story guides
New journalism skills
“As more and more news
journalism ventures, they'll need to
learn how to run them.
“Covering stories and collecting,
cultivating, sharing stories are very
different things. Helping others to
share their lives is still journalism,
and it needs to be taught.”
Inviting the public to our table
Many editors are concerned about errors,
credibility and libel
Some fear that citizen writing quality is low
How do we know if those untrained people are
WILL WE LOSE CONTROL?
Mix logic with understanding
Most participants in citizen journalism have
little reason to cheat or lie.
The “WBC” category is primarily the realm of
By and large, most Americans will conform to
rules that are both simple and logical.
Focus on broad concerns; keep rules simple.
“Decency” - How do we treat profanity and adult
“Commercialism” - What about the promotion of a
business, organization, religion, etc.?
“Literacy” - How much editing and rewriting should we
“Banalism” Is anything just too stupid to appear on the
site? If so, how dumb is dumb?
“Decency” No profanity, no nudity - use normal
newspaper standards of propriety
“Commercialism” Don’t ban businesses that self-
promote, but work with them to produce copy of
“Literacy” Keep editing to a minimum, focusing on
readability rather than style. Avoid jargon and cultural
slang that can be misinterpreted.
“Banalism” Journalists are poor judges of the banal.
Rather than say anything is too low-brow, just find an
appropriate category and let the public judge it.
And… Just Four Simple Rules
No personal attacks
No attacks on race, religion, national
origin, gender or sexual orientation
The end of “NO”
“I worked in newspapers for seven years,
and as an editor most of my dealings with the
public were about telling people “no” due to
NO, we can't cover your event.
NO, we can't run your youth baseball photo in the
NO, your story idea isn't good enough for publication.
“The open source format takes a medium
with limitless file space and allows us to
finally say ”YES" to the public.”
often looking for a
forum for their
around at a teen
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
laptops so citizens
could comment on
Earth Day: Picture it
cameras to citizens to
document the festival
Unexpected reader issues
Political issues are much less popular
than we predicted.
Religion is far, far more popular than we
Pictures of dogs, cats and even rats
trump most other copy.
Unexpected teaching issues
Traditional journalism students want to
write, not “guide.”
Many were at a loss at how to cover “non
news” topics like Little League.
Few students are well prepared to work
with the public.
Into the future
More teasers in the morning newspaper
Increased connection with high school
Addition of student and citizen blogs
Establish a “Websighted” photo program.
Class in “entrepreneurial journalism”