Jana Burmeister: How would you explain the distinguishing features of your project?
Lisa Wuertz: Well, we’re sort of citizen journalism meets MySpace.com. We have a web-based newscast, polling, blogging, events calendar, a place for photos, and news from a variety of local contributors from pastors to police officers to your average stay at home mom.
JB: Is there any exchange between writers and editors on your projects, as far as editorial processes (editing, suggestion of subjects, allocation of tasks) are concerned?
LW: As editor I write some of the stories. I do communicate with our readers to try and get them to post more content when we need it. With some of our regular contributors I also sometimes suggest topics or stories for them when they need help with an idea. We employ a copy editor and myself so all of the editing is done by the two of us. Usually we try to do minimal edits and leave things as true to their original form as possible. If we do have to do something major we contact the user to run our changes by them.
JB: What percentage of all your users are producing content as citizen journalists?
LW: That’s a tough question especially because some of our citizen journalists are not users on the site. Some prefer to e-mail or send in their stuff through regular mail. Also, some of our users have not logged into the site in a year or more. So, I’m not sure on the actual percentage.
JB: How do you assure that stories are correct and how do you avoid sabotage and unwelcome promotion?
LW: We verify dates and times for community events. There’s a lot of trust involved. We avoid stories that are about „he said she said“ or look to defame anyone in any way. We don’t run self promotional items.
JB: Which are the subjects covered often by users and which subjects are covered rarely?
LW: We don’t usually get a whole lot of stories about our local semi-pro sports teams or big „headline“ news events from our local community. We get a lot of stories about education, church events, activities and pets.
JB: Which relevance and which special function has the digital community for your users?
LW: Hmm… I think the digital community allows our users to interact with each other. For example users can comment on stories, they can comment on blogs and leave messages on profiles. They can also add other community members to their list of friends. It creates a small network and greater sense of community within our area.
JB: What do you think motivates users to get active as citizen journalists?
I think for some of them they love seeing fun news and not so much depressing stuff. For others I think it is the idea of getting to know there neighbors a little better that brings them to our publication. Some just love to write.
JB: In which way do you finance the project?
LW: We have a sales team that sells ad space in our print publications and on our website. We are also looking to ad commercials to our bi-weekly webcast.
JB: How will citizen journalism develop in the future?
LW: I think citizen journalism is very much the future of journalism. I think some people will become a little more serious about it and there will eventually be industry wide standards. As more and more people get online, get digital cameras and more, they will be sharing it with people in their communities and the world more and more. The result will be instantaneous, „I was there before the real journalists as it was happening“ news.
Quelle: E-Mail Korrespondenz mit Lisa Wuertz von The Northwest Voice, 2007
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