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Rules of the Road: Navigating the New Ethics of Local Journalism

August 16, 2012 in Community, Craft, Resources

With journalism entrepreneurs launching local news startups at a rapid pace, the local news landscape is evolving ­– and so are the rules of the road guiding ethical decisions.

Where a bright ethical line once separated a newsroom from its business operations, one person now often wears multiple hats, as editor, business manager and grants writer. Site publishers navigate new kinds of critical decisions daily. This guide examines a number of them. You can click to any topic in any order. Or, you can cruise through the Table of Contents.

On every page you’ll find a box that says, “Share your story.” We invite you to weigh in with an ethical problem you faced – and your solution.  Your participation will help inform a work in progress.” Source: J-Lab

Fifteen site operators and one digital ethicist candidly discuss dilemmas they’ve confronted and the solutions they’ve reached. The good news, [J-Lab Executive Director Jan] Schaffer said, is that the internal compasses of community news site founders are working well. Indeed, many actually draw more stringent rules for behavior than traditional news organizations do.

“We’ve seen how entrepreneurial news startups are trying to responsibly fill gaps in investigative journalism. With this publication, we see how local news startups are meeting new challenges of covering community news,” said Bob Ross, president and CEO of Ethics and Excellence Journalism Foundation.” Source: J-Lab

Engaging Audiences: Measuring Interactions, Engagement and Conversions

June 15, 2012 in Community, Resources

The rise of social media tools has empowered online news startups to distribute content, market their sites and track users. However, most small news sites say they cannot lasso data to track whether they are turning users into supporters who will help their sites survive.

According to a national survey on audience engagement, nearly eight in 10 online survey respondents said they could not measure whether their engagement strategies were also converting readers into advertisers, donors, content contributors or volunteers…

“Such an effort is beyond our capacity,” said one respondent. “We need help,” said another.

These are among key findings of a new survey, funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, focusing on how “digitalfirst” news sites are engaging their audiences and measuring that engagement.

“These small sites can measure interaction with their content, but they don’t have good tools to measure meaningful engagement,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which spearheaded the research. “This affects both the future of their operations and the impact they can have in their communities.”

…At least four types of engagement surfaced in the survey responses, but how well the respondents optimized these engagement strategies varied by organization. They include:

  • Engagement as outreach, driving users to consume content.
  • Engagement as reaction, inviting users to comment, share, like and chat.
  • Engagement as stakeholder participation, getting users to contribute stories, time, funding.
  • Engagement as civic participation, activating audience members to address community issues.”

Source: Engaging Audiences: Measuring Interactions, Engagement and Conversions (pdf)

New Voices: What Works

January 12, 2012 in Community, Craft, Distribution, Education, Experiments, Resources, Revenue, Technology

Through 2010, J-Lab’s New Voices grants have been awarded to 55 local news projects from a pool of 1,433 applicants. All were required either to have nonprofit status or a fiscal agent. This report examines the outcomes of the 46 projects that were launched with New Voices funding from mid-2005 through mid-2010…

Simply put, we examined what worked and what didn’t, what made for robust sites or led to disappointment. We offer tips to help other startups and recommendations for Knight and other foundations based on what J-Lab has learned in mentoring these startups.” Source: J-Lab publications – New Voices: What Works

Exploring a Networked Journalism Collaborative in Philadelphia

October 24, 2011 in Community, Distribution, Resources

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism just released a report analyzing the media landscape in Philadelphia. The William Penn Foundation commissioned J-Lab to conduct the study of Philadelphia’s media landscape and the state of public affairs reporting and make recommendations for a possible media investment strategy. It is well worth a read.

Some of the key findings:

  • The available news about Philadelphia public affairs issues has dramatically diminished over the last three years by many measures: news hole, air time, story count, key word measurements.
  • People in Philadelphia want more public affairs news than they are now able to get.
  • They don’t think their daily newspapers are as good as the newspapers used to be.
  • They want news that is more connected to their city.
  • People from both the Old Philadelphia, anchored by the city’s union and blue-collar workers, and the New Philadelphia, representing tech-savvy, up-and-coming neighborhoods, want to be involved in helping to generate that news.
  • The city is awash in media and technological assets that can pioneer a new Golden Era of Journalism.
  • There is strong, but guarded, interest in exploring a collaborative journalism venture.
  • A significant number of Philadelphia’s new media outlets have expressed interest in pursuing a collaborative media initiative.
  • Any collaborative news effort must validate and support the fiercely independent mindsets of the city’s new media makers.

The entire report is available here.” Source: Citizen Media Law Project