Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University assesses the Charlottesville Tomorrow-Daily Progress partnership
In my interview with Mac Slocum, he confirmed what I have heard from other experts around the country, that this partnership is unique. Unique in the nature of reporting being provided by an independent non-profit organization to a daily newspaper, but also in Charlottesville Tomorrow's longevity (four years) as a hyperlocal "new media" organization.
Nieman staff also gave our partnership some much appreciated national attention when they mentioned it in a September interview for a New York Times article related to the PBS show Frontline.
The Nieman Journalism Lab is a "collaborative attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age." In reviewing their website further today, I was struck by this statement: "We don’t pretend to have even five percent of all the answers, but we do know a lot of smart people."
That has very much been a guiding principle for Charlottesville Tomorrow over the past four years. We were early pioneers podcasting and blogging local government when we launched in September 2005, and we have very much been explorers in the realm of new media journalism ever since. Along the way, we haven't had all the answers, but we have invented and refined an in-depth approach to covering local government and local elections, and for building community knowledge, that has been well received in this university town. Our mission is to inform and engage the public so they can find the answers, so they can reach their own conclusions and make informed decisions about the important questions facing this community.
We have also been guided and supported by a lot of smart people in the Charlottesville area who have been board members, donors, and advisors. I have to take this opportunity to thank them again for their courage to try something new and let it evolve. Our partnership with the Daily Progress would not have been possible without them, nor can it continue without the the community's ongoing support.
Finally, here are a few quotes from today's story that I think are particularly significant.
"In online-nonprofit-news terms, Charlottesville Tomorrow is an old timer. It’s been covering the growth and development around the Virginia city since 2005 — back when “twitter” was still a term confined to ornithological circles...."
"Debating the pros and cons of a nonprofit news outlet requires tracking its coverage over an extended period of time....What’s interesting about Charlottesville Tomorrow is that it has a track record. It can be judged. The Daily Progress, in perhaps the most overt thumbs-up a newspaper can offer, opened its print and online platforms to a nonprofit outsider."
"Here’s the thing, though: Charlottesville Tomorrow has an agenda. At least one defined by its choice of topic — it focuses entirely on growth and development issues. Clearly, Wheeler cares about the topic. But the commingling of agenda and objectivity is where Charlottesville Tomorrow is most instructive, because the organization is balancing that agenda against its hardwired objectivity." [view article]
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