In November, I spoke at a J-Lab forum in Washington, DC that included “new media” leaders from across the country. Coming soon after the demise of ChiTown Daily News, the J-Lab forum offered hope through the number and diversity of groups represented there. Here are a few of the ideas people shared, and links to the new media sites they represent.
OaklandLocal.com just started up with a J-Lab New Voices grant. (TC Daily Planet is a past recipient of a J-Lab New Voices grant.) Last week I saw lots of Oakland Local reporting about the arrests and occupation of college buildings on University of California campuses, all in protest over the 32 percent tuition hike approved November 19. Among their ideas:
- OakBase is “a free database of non-profits, social action groups, and neighborhood organizations in Oakland that makes it easier to find groups you’re looking for. Oakland Local community users can add new organizations to the list, as well as edit information for their own groups.”
- The Oakland Local Blog Directory hopes to list every blog in Oakland.
- Oakland Local publishes articles written by community organizations about their activities, identifying these as “Community Voices” to distinguish them from Oakland Local reporting.
The Forum is on the other side of the country, covering four small towns, with a total population of about 17,000 people spread over 161 square miles. They have no other media coverage, meaning that elections for the four town boards and school boards went completely unreported before The Forum came along. It’s an all-volunteer operation, with some interesting lessons:
- Sports reporting is huge – and focused entirely on the four middle schools, since there is no high school in the coverage region. Parents and coaches drive sports coverage, and if your daughter’s cross-country team isn’t covered, it’s up to you to do the job.
- Community members attend public meetings and write about them. In the beginning, public officials resisted, but now they expect coverage.
- “People are finally coming to understand that if they want to read the news, they have to report the news,” says founder Maureen Mann. If someone complains that an event or meeting was not covered, “We say ‘You’re the reporter, you’re there, take your camera and post the story.'”
WestSeattleBlog.com reports from a penninsula that is part of Seattle. Tracy Record emphasized their comprehensive police coverage, and said the blog is a family affair: she stays up until 4 a.m., her husband gets up at 6 a.m., and sometimes their teenage son monitors the police frequencies. They are also helped by the Seattle Police Department’s SPD police blotter, which looks like a great police public relations tool.
One of the common elements in all of the new media operations: lots of volunteer reporting and writing. I hope we can implement some of the good ideas shared by people at the forum, but I know that means looking to you, our readers, for the volunteer time and energy to move forward. Some of the ways to contribute:
- data entry
- link checking, page editing, clean-up
- uploading information about places of interest – from coffeehouses to parks to hardware stores to librarries
- entering information about events for our community calendar
- attending meetings and reporting on them
- contributing photos or video of events, large and small
- editing photos and video and uploading
- reporting on what your organization is doing
It’s a long list, but it won’t be complete until you add your ideas. If you are interested in getting more involved in the Daily Planet, email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us how you’d like to get involved.