Fragebogen: Mark Potts von Backfence

Interview von 2007 mit Mark Potts von Backfence.

Jana Burmeister: How would you explain the distinguishing features of your project?
Mark Potts: Backfence is the first attempt to build a nationwide network of hyperlocal sites whose content is completely user-generated.
Virtually all other efforts have been „one-shots“ centered on a particular community. We’ve built 13 communities so far.

JB: Is there any exchange between writers and editors in your project, as far as editorial processes (editing, suggestion of subjects, allocation of tasks) are concerned?
MP: No, as I said, everything is contributed by the users who live in the
communities. We do select what appears on the home page, but we do no editing.

JB: How much time do user spend on research and quality assurance?
MP: The community will speak up (in the comments) if it sees something wrong with a post on the site.

JB: What percentage of all of your users are producing content as citizen journalists?
MP: Anyone can read the sites; you must register as a member (free) to post content. About half of the registered members have posted content.

JB: How do you assure that stories are correct and how do you avoid sabotage and unwelcome promotion?
MP: Again, the community monitors the site for us; every post has a „report misconduct“ button to let us know if there’s a problem. We do
a limited amount of monitoring ourselves. We also have profanity filters, spam filters and other measures in place to prevent abuse. In
more than two years of operation, we’ve had virtually no problems.

JB: Which are the subjects covered often by users and which subjects are covered rarely?
MP: The subjects of the sites are whatever the members of the local community want to post about–local events, local issues, local
controversies, etc.

JB: Which relevance and which special function has the digital community for your users?
MP: We’re not really aimed at the digital community–our audience (and members) are local moms and dads concerned about their neighborhoods.

JB: What do you think motivates users to get active as citizen journalists?
MP: Interest in their community and a desire to share their knowledge with their neighbors. We do not pay for content and have never even
been asked to do so.

JB: In which way do you finance the project?
MP: Backfence was financed by a group of investors who invested $3 million in late 2005.

JB: What do you think how citizen journalism will develop in future?
MP: I believe we’re in the earliest stages of citizen journalism. I believe we’ll see the flourishing of hyperlocal sites like Backfence
and citizen journalists also becoming more adventurous in terms of doing investigative reporting and strong analysis of issues. We’ve already seen this happen on Backfence. I don’t see citizen journalism ever replacing professional journalism, but I believe it will be a
valuable supplement and complement.

Stand 2007

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