News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Communities

November 11, 2009

Six trends in community journalism

American University and J-Lab produce a study about how the movement to create entrepreneurial community Web sites may changing the rules of engagement with news.

American University just completed a mini-study of women news consumers and women who have created news Web sites. The research, by Assistant Professor Maria Ivancin in partnership with J-Lab, offers an intriguing glimpse of changes under way as a new ecosystem of news forms online.

Ivancin described these findings (based on focus groups and interviews):

1. Community journalism is evolving as an exercise in participation, not merely observation. “It’s not just covering community, it’s actually being the community,” Ivancin said this week at J-Lab’s New Media Women Entrepreneurs summit.

2. The traditional emphasis on objectivity is giving way to a focus on broader definitions of news and the inclusion of different voices. New media site founders often felt “objectivity really is not truthful. Top down objectivity you really don’t have an understanding of what’s happening in your community. They felt objectivity can come in a different way, from participation,” she said.

3. Building community rather than simply covering community is the impetus for launching community news sites. “It’s not just looking at what’s happening. It’s doing things to change that community, help that community.”

4. Community news sites rise to fill gaps in news coverage. “There is an unfulfilled need. Whether the local paper was not covering it, or no longer covered it….  The need can be geographic, the need can be audience based or interest based,” Ivancin said. One news site creator called it a need for “a community water cooler.”

5. New media entrepreneurs are motivated by a frustration with old media’s pace of innovation and change. “New media creators saw the changes as opportunities whereas they thought traditional media saw them as threats,” Ivancin. “The competition did not look kindly at these” news startups, including one outlet that r an editorial attaching the new site.

6. News site creators and consumers express excitement and regret over changes confronting established media. People said they “miss the pleasure of reading the newspaper,” and worry that the ability to select news will mean people don’t get the fuller picture provided in the newspaper, Ivancin said.  Also, it’s more difficult to to judge credibility. New media creators are concerned about losing investigative reporting. Benefits include speed and convenience, more voices and perspectives, selectivity and ability to get depth on topics of most interest, she said.

It will be interesting and important to see whether these trends hold true as traditional media outlets shrink and new experiments come onto the field. Certainly developments in community media are important to established news organizations. The start ups change the playing field of media in many communities and they may be harbingers of new attitudes and practices that traditional journalists and news outlets will want to adopt to stay relevant and fulfill the role of town forum.

February 28, 2012

Philadelphia: Neil Budde takes helm of emerging local journalism network

By Amy Gahran

After a year-long search, Temple University has hired Neil Budde to lead the Philadelphia-area news and information collaborative funded by the William Penn Foundation. As the founding CEO, Budde says his job is to “create a unified vision” for this network…

Most recently, Budde was executive vice president at ePals (a K-12 social learning network) and president of DailyMe (a startup for personalized news and information). Previously, Budde was editor-in-chief of Yahoo News, as well as founding editor and publisher of The Wall Street Journal Online (

“What interests me about this opportunity is that there is a rich ecosystem of folks doing lots of different forms of journalism and local information in the Greater Philadelphia Area,” said Budde. “In addition to the mainstream media, there are many organizations covering special topics—sites like Plan Philly, Technically Philly, and more. I think we can pull together some of those efforts into a more cohesive network, and support them with technology, ad sales, and business operations to help make them more financially viable.”

In addition to fostering the emerging vibrant media ecosystem, Budde hopes that the network will encourage new voices to participate: “People who may want to do something like what those other sites are doing, but don’t know how to get started or don’t have any infrastructure or support.”

One of the initial obstacles for this effort is its name. So far, it’s been called the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network (PPIIN)—which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

“I know, I know,” said Budde. “I’m working on it. I have a document on my computer where I’m collecting ideas, and I’m bouncing them off a few people. I’ve had some good responses to a few. I want make sure the name fits the shared vision that we’re moving toward fairly quickly for what this network will be.”

On a more practical level, Budde is working on setting up the network as a nonprofit corporation. “One of challenges is the way we’re currently operating, under the Temple University School of Communications and Theater, that makes it harder for us to hire people. Breaking the network off as a separate 501(c)(3) corporation will allow us to bring people on board.”

Creating the separate nonprofit entity also will help the network diversify its revenue sources. “We’re getting great support from the William Penn Foundation, but our intent is to find other backers and supporters. Philly has a lot of opportunities in that regard,” said Budde.

The collaborative journalism network is emerging at an especially troubled time for the city’s mainstream media landscape.

The Philadelphia Media Network (which operates the city’s two daily papers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News, as well as may be sold for the fourth time in six years. There are allegations that the newspaper’s management has been muzzling reporters from covering the negotiations.

NPR reports that the group of investors currently seeking to buy PMN includes “two of the region’s most connected Democrats: former mayor, governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell and New Jersey political boss George Norcross III. Both men and their associates have been subjects of intense reporting by the papers. Other investors include a major developer and a leading owner of Philadelphia’s National Hockey League team, the Flyers.”

Budde is watching these developments closely. “Certainly, one opportunity for our network is to emulate a model like ProPublica to collaborate with existing mainstream media outlets for certain kinds of coverage. But whether we can or will do that depends on the people involved,” he said. “I know several people at PMN and I’d love to work on them, but it’ll take time for them to sort out their future. In the long run, this may open additional wallets for local coverage—who knows?”

To gather ideas and context, Budde is talking to other local news and information projects from around the country, many of which are supported by community foundations. “Every community is unique, and what works in one place may not work in another, but there’s a big base of experience out there we can learn from,” he said.

Budde is actively soliciting ideas and context about how to help a local news and information ecosystem thrive. He invites people to contact him by e-mail or on Twitter (@neilbudde) to engage him on these topics.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 17, 2012

Local news enthusiasts: Pew research hints at opportunities for ethnic, community media

By Amy Gahran

The vast majority of U.S. adults are really into local news, Pew research shows. How might ethnic and community media outlets capitalize on this as more media goes digital and mobile?...

Over a year ago, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 72% of U.S. adults say they follow local news closely most of the time, whether or not some important local news is happening. Today, a new Pew report takes a closer look at this group of “local news enthusiasts.”

According to Pew, local news enthusiasts are more likely to be female, age 65 or older, and retired. “Politically, they tend to be conservative in their outlook (although they do not differ from others in party identification) and they also attend religious services more frequently than others. They do not differ from other adults in terms of household income, but are less likely to be college graduates.”

In terms of ethnicity, the vast majority (69%) of local news enthusiasts are white, Pew found. Black and Hispanic adults each comprise 13% of local news enthusiasts—roughly equivalent to the representation of these ethnic groups among the U.S. population at large.

Interestingly, adults with the lowest annual household income ($30,000 or less) were by far most likely to be keen on local news: 32% describe themselves as local news enthusiasts, compared to 22% in the highest income bracket (over $75,000). People with $$50,000-$74,999 annual household income had the lowest representation among local news enthusiasts (12%).

This finding indicates that ethnic and community news and media might be especially likely to gain traction in poorer communities and low-income demographics within communities—a point that might interest local advertisers and sponsors wishing to reach those communities.

Local news enthusiasts don’t all have gray hair. Fully one fourth are age 18-24. However, according to Pew this is the only age group where “other adults” outnumber local news enthusiasts—by almost two to one. This hints that right now is probably a crucial time to engage younger people in local news and information.

Digital media, including mobile and social media, might be particularly valuable in engaging younger people in local news and information. Pew noted: “91% of younger local news followers are internet users, compared with 71% of local news followers age 40 and older, and 82% of adults who do not follow local news closely.”

For contrast, another recent Pew study found that 20% of U.S. adults—mostly those over age 50—still don’t use the internet at all.

Also according to Pew, 73% of younger local news enthusiasts use some kind of social networking service (such as Facebook), compared with 35% of older local news followers and 53% of adults who do not follow local news closely. Twitter is not quite as popular—only 16% of younger local news followers use Twitter, but that’s far more than older local news enthusiasts or other adults. This indicates that using social media to complement your local news and information offerings on the web and in other media might be an especially effective tool for engaging younger community members.

Mobile devices represent a huge opportunity for ethnic and community media. Overall, 84% of local news enthusiasts have a cell phone, and 7% have a tablet computer—slightly less than penetration among all other adults. Also, Pew found the highest penetration of both types of mobile devices is among the youngest local news enthusiasts (under age 40).

This Pew report did not explore how many local news enthusiasts currently use smartphones. However, this year marks the tipping point when smartphones take over as the majority of U.S. handsets in use. Also, most simpler, cheaper “feature phones” are capable of browsing the web and accessing e-mail—and virtually all cell phones can send and receive text messages.

This means that a robust, inclusive mobile strategy (ideally one that includes text messaging alerts or interactivity) can help any local or niche news outlet connect with its community via the devices that most people already carry with them everywhere they go. Also, since social media is one of the most popular things that younger people do on their cell phones, social media can help jumpstart your mobile strategy.

Online media is definitely not the leading source of local news for local news enthusiasts—which may put online-only ethnic or community news and info outlets at a bit of a comparative disadvantage. According to Pew, enthusiasts’ most popular sources of local news are broadcast TV (80%), word of mouth (57%), radio (52%) and print (48%). In contrast, 41% of local news enthusiasts use search engines to find local news, 23% turn to the websites of local newspapers (TV stations sites, 20%), and 12% get their local news from social networking sites.

This points out an opportunity to leverage partnerships for cross-media promotion. For instance, online-only ethnic or community news outlets might provide some articles or other content to run in local newspapers, in exchange for the print outlet providing information about how to find the ethnic/community news site or do other cross-promotion. Similarly, providing simple, short, broadcast-quality audio or video news segments or community updates to local radio or TV stations could help broaden your audience. Many local stations are eager to run such content.

Finally, ethnic and community news sites with a strong mission to improve local communities may be encouraged by this Pew finding: “Slightly more local news enthusiasts than others think they can have a big impact on making their community a better place to live (33% vs. 27%).”

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


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

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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