3 Responses to Community Journalism in the Recession

  1. Tim Francisco says:

    Jason, I couldn’t agree more. It is the sustainability and the funding issues that ultimately too often tank these important projects, and quite frankly, I don’t have the answer to the problem,–and many of the possible solutions are fraught with some serious ethical pitfalls.

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  2. Jason Pramas says:

    At Open Media Boston, we certainly have done – and will continue to do – the things Tim suggests above. However, more community engagement means more work for relatively poor and understaffed community news publications like OMB. Which often translates into an unfunded mandate in an industry trying to figure out new ways to monetize itself from top to bottom. And while working-class communities may benefit from the work done by publications like ours, that does not at all mean that working-class people are any more willing to help fund new news organizations than anyone else is at present – regardless of their overall giving patterns. Also, although it is tempting to get excited about community participation in news gathering, it is very difficult to find community members who are willing to put in the work necessary to do proper news reporting. Many community volunteers, left to their own devices, will simply “disseminate information” rather than “gather news.” Being able to pay contributors and separate wheat from chaff in terms of journalistic quality, would help push community volunteers in new news organizations towards professionalism, but for most of the new crop of online news publications that money simply isn’t there yet. Furthermore, even when traditional news media, universities and other institutions partner with new news organizations that doesn’t automatically mean they are willing to find money to help keep the new news organizations afloat. Quite the reverse. The happy-go-lucky communitarian ethos of getting community “stakeholders” together obfuscates class dynamics and conflicts in this arena as everywhere. That is to say, a working-class led community news publication like Open Media Boston has to struggle to survive and properly cover the working-class communities we serve even as we are expected to gamely participate in do-gooder initiatives by large well-funded institutions that we are critical of or in competition with. Failure to do so means we are bad sports, one supposes. But at the end of the day, institutions that already have money will still have it … and working-class institutions like ours will still be broke. After a fashion, we can easily just go away. And who benefits from that? Working-class communities? I think not. The take-away from these musings is that partnerships between working-class communities and new online news organizations can be a great thing, but let’s not wax too rhapsodic and gloss over the very real difficulties involved. The expansion of community media – and certainly of professional community news media – may be a very temporary phenomenon. Unless someone shows us the proverbial money.

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  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Community Journalism in the Recession « Working-Class Perspectives -- Topsy.com

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