News Leadership 3.0

November 09, 2009

Good ideas from J-Lab’s New Media Women Entrepreneurs summit

Dozens of women gather in DC to hear ideas and best practices from women who have started community news Web sites and are learning how to make them thrive

I’m at J-Lab‘s New Media Women Entrepreneurs 2009 Summit in Washington, D.C., where women who have started community news Web sites are talking about what they’ve learned and what works. It’s a packed room packed with great ideas. Here are some that I’ve heard so far:

* The way to get people to cover community events is to let them know that an event they want covered won’t be covered unless they do it. Several speakers emphasized this, including ForumHome.org and NewCastleNOW.org.
* Edit them so they don’t need to feel self conscious about coming off as bragging about their kid or an activity they’re involved in. NewCastleNOW.org, edits all stories, often asking for revisions, and then copy edits them.
* At the beginning, people are suspicious when someone from a new community news site shows up to cover a meeting or event. Later, if someone from the news site doesn’t show up, people ask where they were. This is the case at NewCastleNOW.org.
* Founders are often most concerned about opening up community debate in small towns where the power structure is fairly closed. ForumHome.org say this was a primary factor in their starting up. NewHavenIndependent.org also sought to open political discourse and participation.
* These sites often are all or mostly volunteer, a mix of non-profits and sites that sell advertising. Those who sell ads say they have to educate those who use print advertising about how interactive online advertising will work for them. One site, NewCastleNOW.org made $50,000 the first year
* Prospective citizen journalists do not have time for deep journalism training. At minimum, train citizens who want to report in basic journalistic principles of fairness, accuracy and transparency. If they want more, offer training in constructing and writing stories. Madisoncommons.org also offers training in opinion writing for those who want to write blogs. TCDailyPlanet.net training includes how to cover government, how to do podcasts.
* Training for citizen journalists is as much about bettering civic discourse as it is about recruiting contributors for the site at TCDailyPlanet.net. Training that focuses on doing works better than training that focuses on learning.
* Transparency is important with citizen reporters. They often will want to write about something they know a lot about. Make sure their connection to what they are writing about is disclosed.
* In larger communities such as Madison and Twin Cities, community sites aggregate and republish in addition to creating their own content. TCDailyPlanet.net aggregates and curates content tries to feature good blogs and nonprofit reports on the front page of the site with permission.
* Unedited reader contributions are labeled as such. TCDailyPlanet.net puts these contributions in a “Free Speech Zone” with a disclaimer.

(Please excuse mislinks. Terriible wifi here so I’m not checking them before posting.)

Comments

Lots of great ideas girls, keep it up!

- Jeff


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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