Journalism & Blogging: It’s About Diversity
Inspired by Poynter's recent Web + 10 seminar, I've been wondering how media organizations could use community-based or grassroots journalism to build audience. I've been asking myself and others: Whose stories are untold using conventional reporting methods? Whose voices are we leaving out of traditional newspapers and newscasts? Who feels alienated by media coverage of their lives?
Are there people of a particular faith (Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, other) who feel ignored? What if media organizations gave them blogs and let them reflect religious life in the community, under your banner? Are there people who believe your news report is too liberal? What if you gave them a blog and let them reflect conservative life in the community? Are there environmental groups upset that you don't spend enough time addressing a particular issue of importance to them? Same solution.
As hard as the media tries to be inclusive, we cannot be all things to all people. So why not invite people to be all things to each other?
By asking community members to create weblogs, you could include a wide range of views on your website -- broader and deeper than you could possibly include in print or on the air for every story -- and measure success not just by pageviews or revenue, but by the increased diversity of your coverage.
If you look at some of the most notable recent media-sponsored blogs, they feature unique voices.Take a look at Lawrence.com. Many of these writers are smart, funny, and creative. You want their voices in your paper and on your website. You just can't possibly interview or hire all of them, even with the most inclusive reporting staff and most generous budget. Nor should you.
Media organizations are not charged with telling every story. You exercise editorial judgment and choose on any given day (or at any given moment, online) what stories to tell. You necessarily leave out some. So include them differently.
Blogging could offer journalism a relatively inexpensive way to increase diversity, attracting new audiences and informing people along the way. Once that happens, it would be a small step to integrate those voices into other forms of reporting.
Imagine you have a blog maintained by local parents and it's time for the school board to discuss next year's budget. You have a source of content and a network of sources that trust you. Imagine you have a blog where people voice their political views. How might those views appear in print -– as a sidebar? -– to your State of the Union coverage.
How can these voices inform the journalism you do?
There will be ethical issues. As my husband asked when I described this scenario to him: What happens when the KKK wants a blog? Or when people start blogging in a foreign language? How do you create guidelines that inspire connection without compromising your core values?
These are questions to explore, while developing these relationships in the community and inviting your readers to join the conversation. That conversation -– with everyone representing themselves – is yet another way to serve citizens and democracy.