Community-focused journalism

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Through Facebook, current and former Patch employees stay connected

Hank Kalet shared this shot of Patch merch on Facebook. Photo by Hank Kalet.

Jim Romenesko | Business Insider

Two years ago, Hank Kalet found out he no longer worked for Patch at a New Jersey coffee shop with his supervisor and someone from HR. Today, he learned that hundreds more Patch employees were laid off through a former editor on Facebook.

Not too long ago, Kalet joined the Patch alumni group, a closed page on Facebook. That page currently has 452 members, former Patch editor Anthony Leone told Poynter via phone.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised if that grows by the end of the day,” he said. Read more

George Zimmerman, Shellie Zimmerman

Can stories like the Zimmerman trial point to a better journalism?

The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and juror B-37’s interview with CNN reveal what may be the greatest challenge to modern newsrooms on socially divisive issues: how best to get different communities to engage with each other.

Since Trayvon Martin’s death became a flashpoint in early 2012, news organizations have excelled at highlighting poignant, diverse voices offering up their analysis and personal experience. Fabulous writers penned passionate arguments. Social media gave rise to creative commentary. We all participated in the debate — the most committed of us by demonstrating, the rest of us by talking with each other face-to-face and sharing and commenting on social media. Now, the revelations about one juror’s point of view are sparking even more conversations about how our individual experiences inform our views. Read more

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4 ways Muni Diaries readers document San Francisco bus riding

Complaining about riding the bus is sport in San Francisco. So when we started Muni Diaries, a website documenting stories that happen on public transit, there was a high chance that our website could devolve into a cesspool of whining and bigoted rants.

But the exact opposite happened: For the last three-and-a-half years, our readers have contributed the majority of the content on our site, and we’ve turned a significant slice of the transit-riding population in San Francisco into our contributor base.

Our readers have helped us break news, be the first to tweet about accidents, and provide other useful information to San Franciscans who depend on public transit.

So how do you get the best from your readers? And how do you cultivate a focused audience that consistently shares ideas and contributes to conversations?  Read more


New Knight study identifies 3 surprising keys to nonprofit news business success

The Knight Foundation has a new study out this morning examining the business models for seven locally-based nonprofit news sites in their drive to achieve sustainability.

Focusing on high-profile ventures such as Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego, the report, “Getting Local,” concludes that none of the sites are all the way to sustainability yet.  But they are well along and developing best practices that other geographically-based ventures can learn from.

The report identifies three “next-stage” opportunities, each with a flavor of paradox:

  • While the sites were founded in part as a reaction to declines in newspaper and other traditional media coverage, they do better if they set editorial goals beyond simply replacing what is gone. Engaging a specific audience and demonstrating social utility will be key to attracting continued and broader support.
Read more

Community, rural newspapers ‘surprisingly healthy’

Romenesko Misc.
The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University has just published an analysis of rural newspapers that tracks the growth of that media category, from Boston’s Publick Occurrences in 1690 to the over 10,000 publications in print today. “The community newspaper business is healthier than metro newspapers, because it hasn’t been invaded by Internet competition,” Al Cross, a rural journalism analyst at the University of Kentucky, told the researchers. “Craigslist doesn’t serve these kinds of communities. They have no effective competition for local news. Rural papers own the franchise locally of the most credible information.” Read more

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7 ways to get your audience to participate in mobile mapping projects

News organizations are increasingly involving the community in their reporting and trying to figure out which approaches work well.

One way to get your audience involved is to combine the ease of mobile texting with the visual appeal of a map. Throughout the past few years, I’ve launched several successful mobile mapping crowdsourcing projects for public radio stations and have found that they engaged audiences and helped advance news stories.

Drawing on my experience with these projects, I’ve come up with some tips on how to involve your audience in a successful mobile mapping project in any medium.

Start with a simple question.

Last December, a huge snow storm hit the New York City area. It happened during the holidays when many of the city’s political leaders were away. Read more

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California Watch’s engagement efforts show staffers what hard-to-reach audiences want

California Watch’s stories about earthquake safety problems in schools reached hundreds of thousands of people through a statewide network of radio, TV and newspaper partnerships.

But the ones most affected by nonprofit news agency’s investigation were the ones least likely to read it — children.

That’s where Ashley Alvarado comes in. Her job as California Watch’s public engagement manager is figuring out how to deliver information to the audiences who need it most but are hardest to reach. This means that her techniques have to be as unique as the diverse communities that she’s targeting.

With the earthquake safety story, the solution was putting information in a kid-friendly format — coloring books. And not just in English, but also in Spanish, Vietnamese and both simplified and traditional Chinese, the most spoken languages in California. Read more

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Rockville Central drops website for Facebook, offers eight lessons on Facebook news publishing

A little over 100 days ago, a community news blog in Rockville, Md., took a big leap. Founder and Publisher Brad Rourke and Editor Cindy Cotte Griffiths moved the entire operation of Rockville Central to a Facebook page.

“Facebook is where people, by and large, have decided to go for their first-stop online community activities,” Rourke wrote in the announcement post. “Which begs the question: Why have a separate site, and try to drag people away from Facebook? Why not go where they are?”

Rockville Central uses Facebook’s notes application to post news stories, which resemble blog posts with headlines, body text and comments. The site also uses simple wall posts and status updates to post short items and to share links to other news and photos. Read more


How does a community editor engage with citizen journalists, audiences?

In this week’s career chat, we talked with Queena Kim, community editor at The Bay Citizen. Kim is a bridge between the community and the Citizen — a nonprofit news site that focuses on civic and community issues in the San Francisco Bay area.

Kim talked about the transition from working at more traditional news organizations — such as NPR-affiliated 89.3 KPCC radio and The Wall Street Journal — to becoming a community editor at a startup. She also shared advice on how journalists can get in better touch with audiences and work with community contributors.

You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat.

<a href=”” mce_href=”” >Live chat today: How does a community editor reach audiences?</a> Read more


5 small steps journalists can take to build a bigger, more engaged audience

Traffic on news sites isn’t just about page views and unique visits; it’s about people. To build an audience, you have to engage with your site’s users and develop strategies to help you maintain your current audience and attract new audiences, by giving them reasons to keep coming back.

Over the past year, I’ve taken small steps to drive traffic to and have found that they’ve made a big difference. I’ve listed the steps below, with additional ones from NPR’s Matt Thompson, The Huffington Post’s Mandy Jenkins, Facebook’s Vadim Lavrusik and the Associated Press’ Oskar Garcia.

Let sources know about your story, ask them to share it

After you write a story, send it to the people you interviewed and ask them to post it on Twitter, Facebook and wherever else they’d like to share it. Read more

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