Community News 2.0

Chronicling the development of a nonprofit local news organization

Creative questions

Posted by Jeff on February 23, 2009

If the media is folks’ way to stay connected and informed in the community but the media is providing less and less news, then imagine how could people’s lives could be changed with more information.

What is the community missing from a lack of local news? I don’t know and I don’t think there is a way to find out. But plenty of studies show the connection between the flow of information and the health of a community.

Now I’m not saying that if the media was not creating gaps in news the local economy would be fixed. But it could be better.

We could have a more informed and better equipped workforce. Our area could be the home to a vibrant government with every race contested and the best candidates representing their constituents (instead of the only name on the ballot).

With a community that is bursting with information, the area becomes more vibrant and connected.

So how do we know what information is lacking? We are going to ask.

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Is it positive or negative

Posted by Jeff on February 20, 2009

Call me a romantic but I like to think of journalism as something that can make a difference in people’s lives.

But sour economic stories have inundated our area; sometimes I want to read good news.

Since questions can be molded to fit a story, it is important to recognize the difference between bumping a quote about the crappy economy to the top of a story and having something optimistic about the future as the lede quote. While I’m not advocating rose colored glasses, we should be weary of the impact poor economy stories have on the readers.

At the newspaper, we were begging for good news stories. It was a brutal day when some other local company had bad news to announce (that might be one of the most selfish things I have ever written). But we didn’t seek out good news; we didn’t have the staff to seek anything out.

Since when do journalist not care about where they live? I have never found that to be true. But I have found handcuffs placed on local staff that restricted their ability to write about what they care about.

We need to be able to seek out the good stories.

Some places need a cheerleader; we live in one of those places.

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Whoa, hoss

Posted by Jeff on February 19, 2009

Time to slow down; we got a lot of work to do.

Two main initiatives over the next two months: develop some sort of communication strategy and initiate professional and informal readership surveys.

Our project is tasked with filling the voids in local information so we need to discover those voids.

So before we start talking about what we are going to do, we need to get a handle on some basic information.

That’s task numero uno.

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Boldness, courage and change

Posted by Jeff on February 17, 2009

The Knight Foundation seminar wrapped up with talk of boldness and courage; civic catalysts and change.

I heard people talk about responsibility of news organizations and the gaps in local news that exist across the country.
And there was a lot of discussion about solutions. (Here is the Knight blog with video from the breakout sessions.)
One issue discussed by a couple of people is the lack of broadband coverage. Most of the projects funded by the Knight Foundation center on Web-based dissemination of information (here is a list of the projects). More than one person called access to broadband the divide in America’s two-class system. 
I think more access to broadband internet in Wisconsin Rapids can better educate, inform, and connect the folks in the area. It is something that needs to be a priority, simple as that. (the FCC has an outreach program.)
We also have to provide more information and connect with more people. During a session this morning, the group was studying The Forum from New Hampshire. This little, home-brewed start up has filled gaps in local news coverage with volunteers: moms and dads, friends, and family. After the first year, they reported an huge increase in contested elections. Considering the number of uncontested races in Wood County, we have a lot of work to do.
There are hurdles; yet there are people willing to make the leap.

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Gwen Ifill recap

Posted by Jeff on February 17, 2009

Kristin Taylor of the Knight Foundation has been diligently blogging and recording video from this weeks conference. 

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One day down, a million to go

Posted by Jeff on February 17, 2009

Entering Day 2 at the Knight Foundation seminar in Miami, my thoughts are in Wisconsin Rapids.

Yesterday was a blur. Knight is funding 21 community foundations (including Wisconsin Rapids) across the country each with a task of helping citizens lead more informed lives (although the projects have a different scope). 
How are they going to do it?
How are we going to do it?
After the first day, I don’t know. But I know it needs to be done.
News is important to a democracy, without a doubt. But the importance of local news to a community has never been greater.
Without getting all teary-eyed and philosophical, I hope when we look up a year or 18 months from now, people are better informed with what can affect their lives. And their lives are better for it.

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video from Miami

Posted by Jeff on February 16, 2009

Knight folks put up a video from the Media Learning Seminar. Check out some of the speakers:

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Keynote speakers and photos from Miami

Posted by Jeff on February 16, 2009

Gwen Ifill was awesome. Down to earth and honest in her words. 

Here she is with Mrs. Wisconsin Rapids, Helen Jungwirth.
Some highlights:

Jessie Jackson is cool with his son practicing different politics than his son.
She broke her ankle two days before the VP debate and let the critisism about her in progress book vs. ability to objectively moderate the debate roll right off her back.

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Breakfast at the Biltmore

Posted by Jeff on February 16, 2009

 Looking over my shoulder as I am eating breakfast at the Biltmore Hotel, which is the host to the Knight Foundation conference. We are here to learn about nonprofit philanthropy supported newspapering. 

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Mojitos, mojo and motivation

Posted by Jeff on February 16, 2009

When I first arrived at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami for the Knight Foundation training conference (it’s all for the Community News 2.0 thangy), Helen Jungwirth spotted me, hugged my neck and bought me a mojito.

The drink was nice but I adore my former boss and the former publisher of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.
We sat beside one of the country’s largest swimming pool and talked about the importance of news at the small communities. 
We think Community News 2.0 is the answer, but that answer won’t come for months or maybe a year. 
Instead of just putting together a newspaper and sending it off to press, we intend to spend the next couple of months learning about the gaps in local news coverage.

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