In a wide ranging conversation Jay Rosen, journalism professor from New York University, and Michele Mclellan, founder of the BlockbyBlock Community News Summit, discussed the summit’s origin, and the lessons learned about sustaining effective community news during the past three years
Mclellan discussed a list that she had developed of local independent online news sites and how over time she developed criteria for a successful site.
- Content does not have to be journalism but must reflect core values of being accurate and fair play. She did not rule out citizen journalism.
- The site has to post three times a week. As a measurement that has held up pretty well.
- The site has to be transaparent. It has to be clear who was publishing the site and it has to be easy to contact them.
- The site has to have some kind of online engagment set up – either through commenting or email.
- It must be evident that there was a serious effort to make money.
Rosen said that brings up the number 1 questions in American journalism today: How do we sustain journalism as an economic enterprise?
McLellan said that she then developed categories — matching up revenue model with type of site and that attracted a lot of attention.
“Now we know at least for right now, what you people look like,” she said.
Janet Coats of the Patterson Foundation connected with BxB the first year because she was very interested in community engagement and saw the local sites experimenting around engagement and wanted to support that, McLellan said.
“Patterson wanted to help a group that nobody else was helping,” she said. “Today the level of knowledge I see in the room is remarkable.”
Mclellan said that members of the BxB Network have to continue to self organize but be careful about how they define themselves.
“Local, online, independent, I’d be really careful not to define news too narrowly,” she said. “News and information are bleeding together in this new universe and a lot of innovation I am seeing is around information.”
Rosen offered that one of the more interesting developments is to see how sites that are local are now also divided by niche.
“We are getting to the point where we are putting a punctuation mark on BCXB…we want it to be an ellipses,” he said.“It’s kind of poignant; It’s now up to you,” and opened to comments.
Several publishers offered ideas/lessons for carrying BxB forward.
“Reporters from somewhere else write about our communities. We write for our communities,” said David Boraks of DavidsonNews.net.
Michelle Ferrier thanked the Knight Digital Media Center, the RJI Collaboratory and Journalism that Matters for their work. She cautioned that sites that continue to provide news and information for 20% of the population, will continue to disenfranchise 80% of our population. The new news ecosystem will look just like the legacy systems, she said.
“Make sure the disenfranchised are included in the new hyperlocal news system,” Ferrier said.
Susan Mernit said that she now knows that even if this started as a hobby she needs to find a way to make this work financially. All kinds of people collaborating together will help. She also suggested a PR campaign.“There is a profound funding gap,” Mernit said, and most of the money is going to efforts started by white men over 50.
“Publishing used to be an industry, now it’s a button,” Rosen said, quoting Clay Shirky. So there are many different kinds of people in the field.
Dylan Smith discussed the new association LION Publishers and whether they will be able to put on a summit like BxB next year. “We spent two hours last night talking about how to keep this going.
Rosen suggested they start by putting together a budget, getting a solid dollar figure for what they will need.
“This is the best of America,” Rosen said.
And BxB12 was adjourned.