Neighborhood Journalism

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New York City neighborhoods have never had the luxury of good local communications. This page's premise is that our digital times offer an opportunity to create a new form of neighborhood focused journalism. It asks how and when we can create media that enhances the health and livability of Jackson Heights.

Note: This page uses the word journalism expansively, as part of our civic infrastructure, to include sharing information through interactions such as convened face-to-face and online meetings that explore key questions and big ideas that will shape the future of Jackson Heights.

Our Historic Media Lacuna[edit]

Historically, New York City neighborhoods have had limited communication capacity, lacking meaningful, locally controlled mass media. Industrial era TV, radio, and newspapers, with their huge capital investment and reach, were a key cause. The following table presents media resources in two similarly sized geographic areas, Jackson Heights and Terre Haute, Indian.

Terre Haute, Indiana Jackson Heights
Population 105,000 100,000
TV Stations 2 0
Daily Newspapers 1 0
Radio Stations 8 0

Today, the variety of digital media available to residents has expanded somewhat. However, a consistently diminishing traditional media, especially newspapers, and the ease of digital publishing has created an inch deep media ocean.

Four Types of Information[edit]

In the book All the News That’s Fit to Sell Jay Hamilton puts out a framework for thinking about four different kinds of demands and kinds for information:[1]

  • Entertainment demand - stuff that’s fun and entertaining;
  • Producer-demand - stuff you need to know for your job;
  • Consumer demand - consumer info about stuff to buy;
  • Voter demand and info - about how one makes demands as a voter and a citizen; civic information about what I need to know to be a civically minded person and have a positive impact on my democracy.

Six Things Journalism Does For Democracy[edit]

Columbia journalism professor Michael Schudson sees six things news does for democracy, presented in order of their frequency. The first three functions Schudson sees are straightforward and unsurprising.

  • The news informs us about events, locally and globally, that we need to know about as citizens.
  • The news investigates issues that are not immediately obvious, doing the hard work of excavating truths that someone did not want told.
  • News provides analysis, knitting reported facts into complex possible narratives of significance and direction.[2]

Schudson wades into deeper waters with the next three functions.

  • News can serve as a public forum, allowing citizens to raise their voices through letters to the editor, op-eds and (when they’re still permitted) through comments.
  • The news can serve as a tool for social empathy, helping us feel the importance of social issues through careful storytelling, appealing to our hearts as well as our heads.
  • Controversially, Schudson argues, news can be a force for mobilization, urging readers to take action, voting, marching, protesting, boycotting, or using any of the other tools we have access to as citizens.

Neighborhood-Supportive Journalism Models[edit]

Newspapers, reporters, journalists, journalism... these are the terms used to describe a largely advertiser supported information-based industry of the 20th century. The development of digital technology shifted the advertising revenue to more efficient and effective media channels. This disrupted traditional media operations with layoffs, consolidations, and closings. Some still serve Jackson Heights, as does some digital media - see Neighborhood Media.

To fill the void left by traditional media and explore the capacity of digital, several new journalism models are being tested. Summaries of these can be found via the following.

Lessons can be learned from these journalism models and newer blockchain based media.

A Journalism Model For Consideration[edit]

With a foundation goal of the JacksonHeights.nyc Initiative being to serve as a touchpoint for neighborhood communication resources, and considering the potential of JacksonHeights.nyc as a platform for a neighborhood communication network, the following are worth considering.

  • From a marketing perspective the intuitive JacksonHeights.nyc domain name offers clear identity advantages: "Yes, I can remember that."
  • Neighborhood-supportive journalism can add trust and accountability by empowering known content providers.
  • We use the WikiTribune software.
  • We keep an eye on blockchain and the Civil platform to facilitate collaboration, see Nieman Labs on Civil.
  • Advertising can occupy 10% of a page's space as per the city license for JacksonHeights.nyc.
  • Start with the assumption that it is unlikely that a neighborhood information sharing network will generate adequate revenue to hire a full time staff member.

Moving Forward[edit]

What activities might we take to experiment with a neighborhood journalism iteration?

A collaborative wiki-like approach seems most likely at this time. The emphasis should not be placed on the creation of a paid journalism position, as generating sufficient revenue is iffy, at best. (Note that we're not alone in making this journalism exploration... see this innovative local media project ProjectRosie by one of Jackson Heights' own.)

Journalism Placement on JacksonHeights.nyc[edit]

Where could a "news" element be published on JacksonHeights.nyc? There are several possibilities:

  • As individual wiki pages alongside other content pages.
  • Place a "new news" section on the JacksonHeights.nyc home page. (This is the Wikipedia practice - see In the News.)
  • Separated the news by domain name, e.g., NEWS.JacksonHeights.nyc.

Contest[edit]

Edward R. Murrow -= Working Press.png

To bolster such an effort we might sponsor a contest to encourage attention, using the Edward R. Murrow press card (below) as prize.

Prize[edit]

This press card of Edward R. Murrow has been donated to us. Signed by Charles Campbell, secretary and ?, president of the Working Press Association.

Related Wiki Pages[edit]

References[edit]

External Links[edit]