Sunday, April 26, 2009

Veteran editor: Hyperlocal Web journalism meets "civic, intellectual and social needs"

Europe's coffee houses of the early 18th century may well have been recreated in America's hyperlocal Web forums -- except for the coffee itself.

Jack Driscoll, 40-year veteran of the Boston Globe, scholar at the MIT Media Lab, is the recent author of Couch Potatoes Sprout: The Rise of Online Community Journalism (a copy of which he has generously gifted me).

Mr. Driscoll contributes to Rye Reflections, a citizen journalism site run mostly by retired residents of Rye, New Hampshire. He says about that site:
“It’s almost like the old-time discussion clubs where people want to have some sort of substantive activities,” Driscoll said. “I think this meets civic needs and intellectual needs and social needs.” The payoff for participants, he says, is the kind of intellectual stimulation that studies show lead to longeity and better health. “For the participants, there’s value. And for the community, because the participants are reporting on their communities, the communities benefit.”
Yet Mr. Driscoll sees a futility in overly relying on citizen journalism:
I do have this huge concern that a lot of people have misunderstood the value of good reporting. I’m afraid we’re going to lose a whole tier of quality professionalism in the media. The impact of that, I think, is going to be huge. What I’ve been involved in is hyperlocal. But who’s covering state government? Who’s covering the courts? Who’s covering science and medicine? The Globe just closed its science and medicine section, and when I heard that I nearly died. I was the one who started it.
Check out his interview here.

Image courtesy of Jim Cerny.

Also see: Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation
And: Community blogs, "a new breed of watchdog"
And: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: 3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists
Finally: A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

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