Journalism as a Community Builder


Do you know your neighbors anymore?

Do you know the history and traditions of your city or town?

Do you follow the news of your city and town? Do you know the names of your mayor or city councilors? Do you attend Board of Selectmen meetings? Are you up-to-date on happenings at the high school or at the public library? Do you know the history of where you live?

And if you answered “yes” to these questions you probably subscribe to the print edition of your local newspaper.

But as plummeting newspaper subscription numbers indicate most people answer “no.”

We don’t live in communities that revolve around geographic centers anymore. That word is rapidly vanishing. It is a simply fact that in our mobile society where the average person moves an average of 12 times in their lifetimes “geographic community” no longer centers us.

We now live in a society – a global one powered by the Internet – where community is build around passions.

Passions can be sporting teams, hobbies, interests, politics and issues, and, yes, occasionally geography.

This move to communities built on passions is one reason why newspapers continue to struggle. Their news and information continues to have its foundation on place. So the Boston Globe is about Boston. The San Francisco Chronicle is about San Francisco.

Newspapers should move away from that paradigm.

Newspapers should mine their readership about their passions. Use the tools available to move away from pushing out news about a place and start to create news and stories centered on passions to build – not an audience – but a community.

For example:

  • Boston is wild about sports. The Boston Globe should consider creating a community hub for this passion. Create multimedia and, more importantly, interactive content to draw in these passionate fans. But don’t just treat them as an audience. Actively engage them for their opinions, ideas, comments and reactions.
  • San Francisco is a technology innovation capital. The San Francisco Chronicle should build an online community about online and technological innovations. Provide a forum for an exchange of ideas – a place for innovators and entrepreneurs to meet, learn, and interact.

The wonderful thing is that these newspapers would broaden their readership beyond geography. After all there are Red Sox fans all over the world and innovators everywhere.

Newspapers can create and host multiple online communities – centered on their reporting and journalism – but build around engagement and interaction. This is the newspaper of the future. It is also at the core of the success of social networks like Twitter, Facebook and even social media content aggregators like Reddit and Newsvine.

Journalism can build community, if journalist begin to think differently.


Using News Site Comments to Build Community via Media Nation

Technology Can’t Replace Journalism

Marketing is the New Journalism

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