Local news Web sites offering content generated by users are securing a place in the media landscape and are likely to remain important sources of community news, a new report from J-Lab in College Park, Maryland, finds.
Funded by the New York City-based Ford Foundation, the report, Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News: The Rise and Prospects of Hyperlocal Journalism, addresses the question of whether so-called citizen journalism sites are sustainable. Rather than delivering comprehensive news, most such sites mix reports about key issues in their communities with less formal items of local interest, said J-Lab director and author of the report Jan Schaffer.
Based on in-depth interviews of thirty different sites and a sixty-question online survey that targeted five hundred citizen journalism sites in the fall of 2006, the report found that a sizable majority (71 percent) of survey respondents pronounced their sites to be a "success," with 82 percent saying they provided opportunities for dialogue. More than fourth-fifths (81 percent) also said they planned to operate their sites indefinitely.
"This report is the most comprehensive I have seen in documenting the community media revolution," said Dean Thomas Kunkel of the Merrill College of Journalism, which houses J-Lab. "It quantifies what has been inherently difficult to quantify. And it shows in great detail how different entrepreneurs are employing different models and with different goals in mind."