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Journalism and Community Organizing

January 6, 2010

Robert Niles, at Online Journalism Review, has a brilliant post about how journalism today requires community organization skills. This is essential reading for anybody running—or thinking about starting—a local site. As Robert says, journalism is no longer about simply reporting the news; it’s about reaching out to the audience, creating a sense of community, listening to what people are talking about, and helping to facilitate the conversation.

The first step in community organizing is to listen. By inviting guests posters on to your site, you show that you are willing to not only listen to other voices in your online community, but to amplify them. That takes you into the second step in community organizing, building relationships. … Start by participating in other, established online communities, such as Huffington Post. Get to know people there, listen, then find a voice within that community and start building relationships. That experience will help in organizing one’s own community, and might help recruit a few readers and participants to that new community, as well.

Robert also makes a point that underlies why GrowthSpur is trying to help local sites turn themselves into successful businesses:

You’ll need that community for more than an audience. You’ll need customers, too – the people who will write the checks that keep you working. You’ll have to organize that community as well.

This is one of the most important posts about the changes in the practice of modern journalism—made possible by the powerful communication tools of the Internet—we’ve read in a long time. It’s worth spending some time with. He concludes:

Know what you’re doing online. Embrace community organizing; create value for a community… and only you will find a community that will value you.

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