Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cit-J podcast - worth listening to

I've just gotten around to listening to the 40-minute podcast that Lisa Williams did for the Center for Citizen Media. It's worth listening to (though note that it is a 30 Mb MP3 download), although, as with all such things, it should be taken with a bit of salt.

Travis Henry of Your Hub, the hyper-local news site started by the Denver newspapers and now being franchised across the country, waxes eloquently about citizen journalism. He has some especially good insights into community (small daily and nondaily) papers and their sometimes uneasy relationship with the Internet. I say take it with a dash of salt because it has a POV, and there certainly are dissenting voices. (See our Hartsville Today first-year report (1 Mb PDF) for an accounting of some of those.)

I you do nothing else, listen to the first 10 minutes where Henry talks about the difference between the way "citizens" think of news and journalists do, as evidenced by the way they use Your Hub (and the way they use Hartsville Today -- see this thread on a gay marriage state constitutional amendment, for example.)

My major reservation as noted in March continues to be Your Hub's syndication as a bellwether for a cookie-cutter approach to such sites. I think each site needs its own local quirkiness. Certainly much of that comes from the content. But it also comes from the site itself. I fear that too many publishers, looking to get into this on the cheap, will see Your Hub as an "add water and stir" option and not really understand what this is all about. Just a small example, but on several newspaper sites that use the service, any links to it are buried or not very descriptive (on the LA Daily News site, for instance, there is a link to, but unless you clicked, you wouldn't know you were getting a cit-j site. It's doubly complicated because if you click on those individual towns lower on the left rail, those geo-based sites have their own link to Valley News, but to the print editions, which have a different online form for submitting news, etc.)

I think papers should be more open in promoting and describing these -- "news from you and your neighbors" or something like that. It's almost like some want to hide it. At Ventura County, for example, high up on the left rail there is a "Get Local" link to the paper's news by locality. But you have to scroll down a page to see the Your Hub link. And if I go to one of the Get Local links, the Your Hub link disappears. Anyone thought that through?


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