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Published by Alin Mechenici

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Published by: Alin Mechenici on Mar 21, 2009
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Fad or the Future of News?
The rise and prospects of
hyperlocal journalism
By Jan Schaffer
J-Lab Executive Director
2Citizen Media
J-Labhas been funding

citizen media start-ups with
micro-grants for two years
now. We\u2019ve seen how
quickly committed founders
can build momentum and
gain traction in their com-
munities. The findings in

this report were less of a surprise and more of
an affirmation of what we had started to see.

We agree with 98% of the respondents in
our web survey who said that the emergence of
local news web sites with content built from
community members is \u201ca good thing\u201d\u2014
although it may not all be \u201cjournalism,\u201d the

kinds of finished stories you see in a newspa-
per. Because of that, we prefer the term \u201cciti-
zen media,\u201d although we use that term inter-
changeably with \u201ccitizen journalism\u201d in this
report. Over 79% of the respondents to our
web survey considered the information on their
sites to be \u201cjournalism.\u201d

This report focuses specifically on micro-
local community news sites that contain con-
tent generated by users. When we started this
research in the spring of 2006, we were able to
identify about 500 citizen media sites. As we
issue this report, we have been able to identify
several hundred more and will soon catalogue
them on a new web site, the Knight Citizen
News Network (www.kcnn.org), supported by
the Knight Foundation.

More impressive than the numbers,
though, is the impact these sites are having on
their communities. With limited readership and

very little revenue, 73% of those who responded

pronounced their sites to be a \u201csuccess.\u2019\u2019 Why?
Because they have watchdogged local govern-
ment, provided news that couldn\u2019t otherwise
be had, nudged local media to improve,
helped their community solve problems, even,
to a degree, increased voter turnout and the
number of candidates running for office.

This study takes an early snapshot of a very
robust development. We interviewed 31 site
operators in-depth, and we fielded a 60-ques-
tion online survey. Not all 191 respondents
could, or did, answer every question, but they

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