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From Citizen to Community Journalism

From Citizen to Community Journalism

  • Posted on: 10 March 2008
  • By: Colin

The New York Times published an interesting article today, entitled "Journalism in the Hands of the Neighborhood."

The article highlights a class on citizen journalism offered by the Media Mobilizing Project and the South Philadelphia Community Center, JUNTOS, to cover local issues on housing and development (see MMP's "All For the Taking" blog).

The Times article raises the question of whether or not the term "citizen" in the phrase "citizen journalism" is an appropriate label for those practicing journalists who are not citizens or "even legal residents." MMP organizer, Todd Wolfson is quoted in the story as saying that MMP prefers the term "community journalism."

In November, 2007 University of Missouri Professors James Sterling and David Burton wrote the following about the term community journalism:

"Community journalism is the belief that newspapers have an obligation that goes beyond just telling the news or unloading lots of facts. Journalism can help empower a community or it can help disable it. In the small towns and cities of America, the local newspaper is one of the links that connects people to each other. It is one of the ways the community is maintained. It is part of the local discussion on issues that concern a community."

While community journalism might traditionally refer to the work of community newspapers, it seems to me that community journalism also reflects the work found in our NeighborMedia project here at CCTV.

In digging a bit deeper online, I also found an interesting article by Tamara L. Gillis, Ed. D. and Robert C. Moore, Ed. D., entitled "Keeping Your Ears to the Ground: A Journalist's Guide to Citizen Participation in the News: A Primer on Community Journalism." In the introduction, the authors write:

"The guide emphasizes the important connection between communities and their media -- print and broadcast and the resultant imperative for journalists to serve the citizenry . . .

The purpose of this guide is to encourage journalists to learn, understand, and apply the basic values and principles of traditional journalism in light of new democracies and community empowerment found within the tenets of civic/community journalism."

I'm interested to spend more time learning the distinctions between citizen, community and even civic journalism. In the meantime, I thought some of the NeighborMedia folks might be interested in this discussion, as well.


Well at least one definitely is, as Karen from NeighborMedia passed this on to me today. It's the sort of thing we were discussing in the first session of Citizen Journalism 101 (which we considered calling "Community Journalism 101" instead), where John Grebe actually brought up the same point about the use of the word "citizen" and its socio-political overtones. The digital divide is mentioned more explicitly at the end of the article, something I have blogged about in the past due to its questionable role in this whole "community journalism" movement.

Communities are made of the people in them. Legal status affects many but does not negate people. If a news org. excludes a significant segment of it's constituency, it has chosen a biased point of view. It has become a political entity. Only by letting everyone in can it really serve the public as the means to informed decision making. The world and the home town are an awesome mix. The media's job is to make that point.

Aint it cool?

Mark Jaquith