New York Times Launches “Citizen Journalism” Sites

Updated 12:06 p.m.

On Monday, the New York Times launched five test “citizen journalism” sites called “The Local” focusing on two New York City neighborhoods – Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, both in Brooklyn – and three (?) New Jersey neighborhoods – Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn.

According to an article in Friday (2/27) Editor & Publisher, “Most of the contributions will come from local residents, with a Times staffer overseeing each site.” The E&P writer, Joe Strupp, asked Times’ editor of “digital initiatives,” Jim Schachter, about “the dangers of having inexperienced non-journalists doing reporting for the sites.” To which, Schachter replied, “I don’t think we would expect to get the exact same thing that we would get from a New York Times reporter. (WSPB Note: let’s hope not.) One of the qualities that we bring to the plan is our good judgment.

Interesting that the Times jumps on the “citizen journalism” trend (instead of, say, initiating it) — the article acknowledges it as a “growing world” — and yet disses the sites that already exist; sites which have managed to communicate, gain readers and attention, without the Times’ imprimatur.

Schachter adds: “It is a grassroots effort, to see if there is a new kind of journalism we can be part of.”

For “The Local” of Brooklyn, the Times will also use community journalism students from CUNY Grad School of Journalism.

Then there’s this: “The mission is to educate the community about how to be citizen journalists and contributors,” Schachter added. “There are ‘place’ blogs everywhere. We have to create a real quality community that figures out the answers to questions on the minds of people in each place.”

Do you think that’s really the mission?

On the Maplewood blog (which is not far from where I grew up), I read an interesting story about a wrangle between a possum and a dog (both survived). Tina Kelley who edits the NJ section is from Maplewood. Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn – all sort of similar. Whereas Andy Newman, who edits Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, lives in Park Slope which is very different from those neighborhoods. We’ll see how this one plays out.

As someone who writes a “place blog” (albeit very specific and not about a neighborhood per se), I think they should figure out a new way to do it. Not jump on what community and neighborhood bloggers figured out for themselves. A. long. time. ago. Of course, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Times writing about neighborhoods. That’s a good thing. If you look at the sites; however, it just doesn’t seem different from what other bloggers are already out there doing.

What do you think?

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1 Comment

  1. I took offense to the Times doing this. By jumping on the bandwagon, they are trying to strongarm and sideline the very blogs they are now trying to capitalize on.

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