Community reporting and citizen journalism unpacked

Citizen journalism and community reporting

The Institute of Community Reporters – which I wrote about earlier – has produced its first discussion paper, exploring the different between community reporting and citizen journalism.

I think the paper is very good … not least because it sets out far more cogently than I did some of the issues I nibbled at in More rebranding of citizen media as “journalism. ” Sigh”.  I argued that just because people post videos or use blogs to produce content about their communities doesn’t mean they follow the news-dominated agenda of journalism, which may be good for some campaigning,  but not for community building.

In the paper, Teresa Wilson, Partnership Manager at People’s Voice Media, distinguishes between news, and story.

Story can be the means by which we work out our thoughts and ideas about who we are and how we connect to those around us. It can be an exploration, a search for meaning or an offering up to others. From a community development point of view, story is an extremely useful tool for helping people to locate themselves in their own lives and their communities. And more importantly, it is universal and there are no prerequisites required in order to tell a story.

We all have something to say and stories to tell about our lives and this is our starting point for Community Reporting. From here, we support people through a process of refining communication, developing new skills, thinking more about the audience for their stories and the impact they want those stories to have. Some of the stories that Community Reporters tell might be considered ‘newsworthy’, but the heart of Community Reporting is in individuals telling stories about their own lives rather than reporting on news, an approach that serves to benefit both the individual and the community.

As Simon Safari, Chair of the Tenants’ Association in Botkyrka, Stockholm says, “I believe that we need more thinking to create sustainable communities, and [giving people] the right to describe their own reality is one of them.”

I strongly recommend reading the Community Reporting and Citizen Journalism paper in full, together with the explanation  of the Venn diagram I have linked, above.

Teresa explains the role of the Institute in developing some quality assurance around the role of community reporter, with editorial guidelines, training, and the opportunity to work with other reporters. Teresa concludes that reclaiming the term reporters is important …

… because for us it means family. It’s a network of people joined together by a common set of goals and values, sharing their successes and frustrations and learning from each other in the process. We hope to see the network grow and the model continue to support more of the kind of people who wouldn’t traditionally create content for the web into the wonderful world of content creation, where their stories and views count, and where they feel ultimately more connected to the world around them.

I hope social reporters get honorary membership too.



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