Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hartsville Today -- the "cook book"

For almost a year, the Hartsville Today citizen journalism project has been running and growing, one of the few such experiments aimed specifically at smaller papers without many resources (in this case, a twice-weekly).

When we started it with funding from J-lab, we promised a "cook book" that would give other smaller papers considering such projects a road map of what to expect and how to handle some of the challenges.

The report is done and now available. Feel free to download it. It's a 1 Mb PDF that covers everything from the multitude of early decisions about design and content to the rigors of getting people involved, sales and the technical aspect.

In addition to covering all the aspects, we think it is the first major extended study of such a site, the postings and their contributors. There is an extensive section that tracks five months of postings and proposes a codebook that may be of use to future researchers.

We'd love to hear from you. Please leave your comments here.

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At 8/22/06, 6:08 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Great job, Doug! I just recommended this report to the readers of Poynter's E-Media Tidbits.

Personally, I think community papers represent the great untapped opportunity for citizen journalism projects. You can do a lot, even with modest resources.

- Amy Gahran

At 8/22/06, 9:29 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Amy, thanks so much for the kind words. I hope our second-year study will yield a lot more insight into how the community perceives the site.
- Doug

At 8/22/06, 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great Doug -- I'm posting on CyberJournalist.net, but just noticed that the link to the document is giving a "Access Denied. Bandwidth limit exceeded" page.

At 8/22/06, 11:18 PM, Blogger Doug said...


Oops. Thanks for reminding me. I'd put it up temporarily on my home ISP until I could get it over to the university site, and then got tied up in pre-semester meetings. It's been moved, and the forwarding link now should work (it did for me a moment ago). If anyone has any problems, please e-mail me and I'll send you the report directly. dfisher(at)sc.edu.


At 8/22/06, 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, this report is great. I am a internet news editor, and teaching citizen journalism for NPOs. Your report is very helpful. Thank you!

At 8/25/06, 11:50 AM, Blogger Daniel said...


This is an excellent resource, and I'd like to discuss this project with you in greater detail if your schedule allows. I'll buy lunch.

At 8/25/06, 11:19 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said...

Doug, what a terrific report! Thank you for your public service to the industry, especially smaller publications, in sharing this information.

We observe many of the same trends in Bakersfield as you do in Hartsville. Your advice is solid and will be valuable to everyone working to make participatory media successful in local communities.

Mary Lou Fulton
The Bakersfield Californian

At 8/26/06, 2:19 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Thank you to everyone for the kind comments and the links.

As the report says, the credit really goes to the people of Hartsville and the Hartsville Messenger staff who have contributed and made the site increasingly popular.

I think the Messenger staff, in particular, is to be commended. In a small town in the Pee Dee, they probably could have gone several more years without really having to grapple with disruptive media. They chose to take it on and try to learn, difficult as it can be sometimes.

Best to everyone in all their journalism efforts. As we make it broader, we can only make it stronger.


At 8/27/06, 10:42 AM, Blogger RossRN said...


I saw Amy's piece in Tidbits and want to thank you for the detailed look behind the scenes.

In April of this year I launched an independent community site in Nazareth, PA and made a post on my behind the scenes blog (http://nocnews.blogspot.com/2006/08/sad-state-of-municipal-web-sites-noted.html) comparing your experience with my own.

If you or any readers have information or contacts to sites similar to mine it'd be much appreciated if you could direct them to me.

Best wishes and thanks again for sharing this information.


At 11/16/06, 10:32 PM, Blogger Ellis Anderson said...


greetings from "Katrina land." I'm down in Bay St. Louis, MS - where the eye of the storm actually hit.

Amazingly, we're still a lively community - and our neighboring town, Waveland,MS, is having local elections next month. While these are important in the best of times, for citizens on the Coast, the decisions of these few officials at this point in time will affect this community for generations to come.

My group has put together a community blog - called "Serve Waveland." www.servewaveland.blogspot.com
We're experimenting with the blog as a tool for voters. I personally believe the internet will become a tool for empowering citizens again - beginning on the local level.

We'd appreciate your comments and also are curious if there are other communities out there with similar blogs? Do you know of any?

Anyone who has info or input - we'd love to hear from you - just leave your comment anywhere on our blog! Thanks! Ellis Anderson


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