October 12, 2004

The University of Missouri School of Journalism has launched My Missourian, the latest effort to enlist citizens in publishing community news to the Web. Inspired by NorthwestVoice.com (from the Bakersfield Californian) and South Korea’s OhMyNews, the site has the motto: “News for mid-Missourians by mid-Missourians.” The site is staffed by students, who are responsible not just for editing content, but also soliciting it, says Professor Clyde Bentley.

The Missouri project follows on the heels of GoSkokie.com, launched this past spring by a team of master’s students in one of my classes at the Medill School of Journalism. The two projects have some real differences. Perhaps most significantly, GoSkokie allowed people to register and post without an editor’s approval, while My Missourian posts will be reviewed before publication. This was mostly because GoSkokie was an experiment to see if such a site could develop its own “critical mass” of users who could keep the site going after the student project ended. In the time the students had (about 6 weeks following launch), the experiment proved largely unsuccessful; after the students moved on, the site went mostly dormant.

By assigning staff, Missouri should have an easier time keeping the site active. It will be interesting to see if pre-publication review encourages people to post because the environment is “graffiti-free,” or if it deters people because they are averse to journalistic gatekeepers. (The only off-limits posts, Bentley says, are nudity, profanity, personal attacks, or attacks based on race, creed, or national origin.)

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Rich is an online news industry veteran who currently serves as the new media program chair and associate professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of…
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