July 8, 2009

Citizen journalism series looks at developing Michigan virtual newsroom project

Getting the right tools for the job can be one of the challenges of getting a community's help in reporting what's happening. The diversity of skills and comfort levels with technology can vary widely.

For instance, I'm working with 66 volunteers on a project that screams wiki to me. Yet, when a question about the type of computer someone is using is answered "laptop" I want to scream something that few want to hear.

Fortunately, there are folks working to pull together simple to use tools for community networks.

Michigan State University jumps in

Ironically, the deadline given Jane Briggs-Bunting for her resignation from the Michigan State University School of Journalism is the same day that Detroit Make It Here featured a project associated with her and MSU's School of Journalism.

Jonathan Morgan and his involvement with the Tandem Project is the focus of Developing virtual newsrooms: Platform to help community supplement dwindling coverage. The article is the second part of a series on citizen journalism in Michigan. (The first part of the citizen journalism series focused on "new media mix.")

Mignon-Media hired

Morgan is working with Mignon-Media to develop the virtual newsroom platform, a computer application expected in September. The article says the application will let groups set up pages with blogs, wikis and forums. Information can be made public or private, and participants will have unique roles, such as reporter, copy editor and managing editor.

(See It's My News, a website linked from Jeff Mignon's profile for an example of Mignon's work.)

Detroit Make It Here writes:
“Our hope is that a lot of communities will begin using the software and covering communities online,” said Briggs-Bunting. “I could see this working well in a small town that no longer has a paper.”

Public's help needed

Morgan, the multiplatform editor at the Detroit News, believes that journalists need the public's help in improving journalism.
"We need to include citizens in every step of the process so they understand the work behind and value of what we do, so they will be more willing to not just pay for news, but help us rethink how we fund news in the future."
That's from his answer to the question of how to do journalism with its core value, make money and attract news consumers/viewers/readers that was asked of all the participants at the Rethink the News symposium at MSU.

Morgan, who has a background in computer programming blogs, and teaches. Read why he blogs (with Michael Happy) on one Detroit neighborhood to gain insight into his take on what journalists need to do.

Get out of newsroom

He also thinks journalists need to be jugglers:
"Journalists can become involved with community -- find balance of involvement using principles of good journalism."
The more I heard him speak at the Rethink the News event the more I was glad he is involved with the Tandem Project.

Tandem grew out of a $230,000 Knight News Challenge grant to use college students to flesh out ideas on how to improve journalism using the Internet. Michigan State students and six other universities worked on the projects, which were presented at the 2007 Online News Association conference in Toronto.

Now, all we have to do is wait.

Read more about Jane Briggs-Bunting


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