Friday, August 31, 2007

New journalism initiative to launch in Minnesota

Longtime CCJIG stalward Ed Lambeth sent this along for inclusion on the blog; it came to him from his University of Missouri colleague Debra Mason in the form of a news release and has been edited somewhat for length. The full version of the release, including a lengthy list of participants for th enew project, can be found at

Also, contact names for anyone interested in learning more about the venture can be found at the end of this posting.
- JR

August 27, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS --, an internet-based daily providing news and insight for Twin Cities and Minnesota readers, will launch later this year.

Joel Kramer, CEO and editor, announced that he has raised $1.1 million in startup funds for the not-for-profit enterprise. Four local families have contributed a combined $850,000, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, based in Miami, announced a donation of $250,000.

"Communities need news every way they can get it," said Eric Newton, vice president of Knight Foundation's journalism program. "What makes this experiment interesting are its non-profit model and the willingness of such a broad spectrum of the community to give money and time to this effort." will offer exclusive front-page news stories as well as posts, a new format in which professional journalists engage in an informal conversation with readers about what they're learning and what to make of it. Posts will be a bit like blogs, but unlike many blogs, they will be built around original reporting, not just opinions or links to other people’s work., which will publish Monday through Friday, also will offer daily roundups providing perspective on metro, state, national and international news, stories from selected content partners (currently under discussion), commentary from community leaders and experts, and comment from and involvement of readers. MinnPost will be nonpartisan, and all opinion pieces will be signed.

More than 20 Twin Cities journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Pioneer Press reporter and best-selling novelist John Camp and former Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow, have already committed to contributing regularly to, according to managing editor Roger Buoen, former deputy managing editor of the Star Tribune.

In addition to Kramer and Buoen, MinnPost editors will be Corey Anderson, web editor, who was online managing editor of City Pages; Don Effenberger and Casey Selix, news editors, both formerly editors at the Pioneer Press; and Beth Thibodeau, MinnPost in Print editor, formerly an editor at the Star Tribune.

" is all about substantive news for Minnesotans who are intensely interested in the world around them and want more insight and analysis than they’re getting from their media choices today," said Kramer, who served as editor of the Star Tribune in the 1980s and as publisher and president in the 1990s. "It will combine the best of traditional journalism with new forms of newsgathering and storytelling made possible by the Internet. will emphasize original, high-quality content five days a week, plus carefully chosen work from other sources. You can read it online, or in a printable newspaper format, MinnPost in Print."

MinnPost in Print will be published Monday through Friday in 8.5 x 11 format, printable on home and office computers and expected to be available in high-traffic locations over the lunch hour.

For more information, contact Joel Kramer at 612 581-7431, or Larry Meyer, Knight Foundation vice president/communications, at 305-908-2610, email:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Recent Media Matters program and relevance to Civic/Citizen Journalism

The August 26, 2007 "Media Matters" radio program -- the broadcast hosted by Robert McChesney of the University of Illinois -- featured a fascinating discussion with Geneva Overholser of the Missouri School of Journalism. Overholser, who has a long print journalism career with such publications as the Des Moines Register and the Washington Post, talked at length about two items that have increasingly led to a disconnect between the larger dailies and their communities. Both of the concerns they discussed -- the increasing demand for profits and dysfunctional newsroom attempts to provide objectivity -- are very pertinent. However, my concern with this line of criticism are two: 1) it has been long discussed and often provides no new insights and 2) at times it focuses more on symptoms of newspapers' increasing problems and not so much on the root causes.

What may be one of those root causes? Well, how about entrenched ways of conceptualizing the newsgathering process? By that, I mean that there are certain "protective" ways print newsrooms go about deciding how they will define, research, gather and report news. To me, this is one of the long-standing lessons of the public/civic journalism movement. These concerns about the newsrooms "sociology of work" were pointed out long before the current criticisms about the shrinking of newsrooms, the increasing profit orientation of news operations and the drift of consumers to online news sources. In fact, the press's detached way of looking at the world and then deciding on how to report on it is a significant factor in the legacy media's downturn -- a cautionary note for those who believe that the migration to the online world will be a panacea for journalism's lack of relevance to many Americans. What needs fuller exploration, by watchdogs, journalists and academics, is how journalism's protective stance has undermined its pertinence to communities across the country.

There is no better example of a "fortress journalism" (a term popularized by Steven Smith of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and others) mentality than the almost-visceral hostility the St. Louis Journalism Review has displayed against public/civic journalism. In fact, when the publication's editor, Ed Bishop, recently wrote his farewell column, he citied the publication's resistance against the movement as one of his proudest moments. I couldn't resist the opportunity to write to them on how this particular proclamation spoke volumes about the troubles of both the current printed press and press criticism.

Another kind of bishop's tale
Burton St. John III.
St. Louis
Journalism Review 37.294 (March 2007): p5(1).

It's a bit disheartening when a respected observer like Ed Bishop, in singling out one of SJR's biggest accomplishments during his tenure, chooses to belabor how the publication successfully fought against the public-journalism movement. In spending about seven paragraphs on this subject, I couldn't avoid being impressed that his maintaining that the SJR had "won" had a hollow ring.

What was gained in the victory, especially for the contemporary daily
newspaper? Let's see, major dailies are losing circulation every year (as has been the habit for several decades now), newsrooms are facing continual cuts in resources as ownership profit motives prevail and surveys consistently reveal that younger Americans get most of theirnews from sources like the Internet, TV news and even the Daily Show.

What a reassuring win for SJR. Granted, Bishop is correct that the public
journalism movement was fraught with problems, but the one that I have been the most intrigued with over the years is the one that he, and other working press critics, won't own up to. It's hinted at right there in Bishop's own barbs toward the professors and funding organizations that championed the movement. Such rhetoric has been going on for years from press detractors, and it all points to suspicion (often justifiable) that outsiders with an agenda will get into the newsroom and muck up the integrity and credibility of the news workers. This defensive prism(which has been around for about 80 years) that many journalists used to evaluate public journalism is a greatly underappreciated dynamic.
Why? Because, rather than question the conventions at play in your workplace, it's so much easier to point at how the interlopers just don't get it, and then resist.

And who really benefited from that resistance? I would maintain that the
current crop of news owners see rewards from the movement's failures. After all, engaging the public to find out what they see as news is much more costly than continuing with such conventions as covering spats between local officials, devoting stories to celebrity mishaps or chasing down accounts of bizarre criminal behavior. Since these servings of "news" don't relate to many Americans' daily lives, no wonder newspapers are having trouble being relevant to their local communities.

At its core, despite its failings, misdirections and mistakes, the
public-journalism movement advocated that journalism worked better when it connected with, and included, citizen voices. Newspapers, in particular, have the resources, talent and inclination to provide these kinds of stories. But it only happens in spurts, and it is waning. So, Bishop wants to celebrate an SJR victory? In light of all this, it appears a shallow proclamation indeed.

Burton St. John III,
Assistant Professor, Communications
Old Dominion

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

COMJIG minutes

Check out the minutes of the membership meeting of CCJIG's colleague AEJMC group, the Community Journalism Interest Group, posted in COMJIG's blog at

Members who were in attendance in Washington will recall that the two groups met jointly for about 45 minutes before separting for individual business meetings. The COMJIG minutes begin with a summary of that joint discussion.

Limited interested in a participatory project

Below is a question for discussion; it would be great to get a comment-chain going (which was one of the purposes of starting a blog to go along with the listserv and Web site for CCJIG).

What does everyone make of a situation when a participatory project -- in this case one sponsored by a good-sized metro newspaper -- draws the involvement of only a small number of participants? In some respects, this is another way of asking whether the number of people who involve themselves with a project should be a metric of its success.

Here's what prompts the question. In addition to The Loop for college students (see Aug. 21 blog entry below), another citizen-participant project of the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle is a site, designed for men to post and discuss information of interest to them. It was launched just a few weeks ago as a companion site to, which the Democrat and Chronicle introduced a few months ago to serve the interest of women, particularly mothers.

Rocmen has some hyperlocal, user-generated content, a fantasy football blog written by two Democrat and Chronicle staff writers, and some picked-up content from the paper's main site , especially related to events and entertainment and also youth sports, rec sports and pro sports (the NFL Buffalo Bills hold their training camp in Rochester). The site also has discussion forums, which are the area of particular interest for this question.

The forums seem to be the private sandbox of a handful of people who post regularly, and practically no one else. The profiles of forum users report an interesting tidbit about each contributor: how many posts he has accounted for, and the percentage of the total on the site. One person has accounted for nearly 19 percent of the total posts in the forum ; a couple of others are in the 1o to 12 percent range. So about five people are responsible for 50 or 60 percent of the total posts in the forum. This is great for them, of course. There's no question the site is providing a forum that didn't exist before it was started a few months ago, and certain individuals are using it to add their voices to a community conversation they likely didn't have a way to do before. This is certainly a laudable goal of a citizen media site, and by this standard rocmen is succeeding.

But back to the question at hand: is it fair to presume that a major purpose of a site like this, especially sponsored by a major metro paper, is to draw wide participation, men of different ages and interests from around the Rochester area and beyond, and to generate widespread contributions and commentary? And if the contributions come from only a handful of users, is the site a "success," or not?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rochester (NY) paper launches citizen media project for college students

The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle and a partnership of seven area colleges have launched a new citizen media project created by college students, for college students. The site went live on Monday Aug. 20.

Called “The Loop,”, the site is overseen by a Web editor at the paper with a staff of seven content editors, one from each college, with a mission of portraying college life from a student perspective. The content editors are serving paid, for-credit internships at the newspaper.

Each college also will have a faculty advisor and two other primary student contributors, a content coordinator responsible for organizing campus submissions and a “backpack journalist” creating multimedia packages for the site. These contributors will receive a small stipend and academic credit.

The colleges involved so far are the State University Colleges at Brockport and Geneseo, St. John Fisher, Nazareth, Roberts Wesleyan, Rochester Institute of Technology and Monroe Community College; the paper says it plans to expand to others.

The Democrat and Chronicle’s report on the site’s launch can be found at:

(Author’s disclosure: I am the faculty advisor for my institution, St. John Fisher College, and my daughter is one the content editors for one of the other partner schools.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

This is the new blog of the activities of the Civic and Citizen Journalism Interest Group of AEJMC (the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication).