Topic: What would a publication that incorporated content from both professional and citizen journalists look like? How would it function?
Session Host: Keegan Clements-Housser

1) What’s the quest?
To recognize that professional journalists no longer hold a monopoly on creating content that matters to our communities (or on content that informs our communities), and to view our loss as exclusive gatekeepers not as a setback, but as an opportunity to change and grow how we interact with our publics and communities.
→ Specifically, citizen journalism is here, it’s growing in influence and importance, and it’s not going anywhere – so rather than view citizen journalists as competition or threats to work against (and vice versa), let’s work with them.
→ Citizen journalists have strengths and weaknesses, professional journalists have strengths and weakness. Collaboration can help each group play to their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
→ For example, citizen journalists often have an easier time accessing populations that are wary of traditional media, and are also often much more nimble and responsive than professional journalists when important things happen in their community (see: most of the real-time Arab Spring coverage coming from citizen journalists). Meanwhile, professional journalists have institutional access and protection, credibility via well-established and widely implemented ethical frameworks, and formal training.
→ So, best of both worlds: offer citizen journalists a platform to tell stories important to their communities, the endorsement of an institutional outlet with the credibility and legal protection that brings, and training in tools used by professional journalists. In exchange, professional journalists get access to areas of a community they might have previously been barred from, more timely and personal coverage of local events, and lessened individual workload for already often overworked staff.
→ Structure: Central conventional publication produced by professional journalists with “hubs” for specific communities/suburbs/etc. (depending on type of publication). These “hubs” would be staffed by professional editors who specifically build relationships with local communities and citizen journalists. Hubs are platforms for community members to publish content meaningful to them; professional editors fact check/otherwise vet submitted content, but do not curate beyond certain core criteria set by a code of collaboration/submission standards/etc. – for example, no hate speech. Could be condensed to single community hub with a single community editor, depending on publication/community needs, but same basic idea.

2) What else?

→ Could implement some form of “BBB of Citizen Journalists,” with a combination of community and professional editor rankings of local citizen journalists to assist with credibility (or to warn public away from low-quality or misleading citizen journalism).
→ Offering training or even collaboration space to citizen journalists through hubs, similar to Chicago’s City Bureau. (
→ Thoughts on dealing with over-saturation, i.e. multiple community members producing content on same topic: editorial oversight on repeat topics (how is this different from what’s already there?), community voting on stories to be featured on platform, robust discussion system allowing community engagement with existing content rather than resorting to duplication.
→ In addition to providing platform, space, and training to citizen journalists, also introduce them to professional ethical framework/explain what it is and why it matters.
→ Profit sharing from advertising based on amount of content contributed, not per click – community contributor with 30 published stories gets larger share than contributor with 1 published story, while click bait is not a viable strategy for more money.

3) Lessons? What next?

→ Starting/funding model depends on type of publication, but some options include Business Improvement District funding, business partnerships/sponsorships, and crowdfunding (at least for pilot programs/proof of concept efforts).
→ If starting from scratch and not building off of existing publication, non-profit and benefit corporations are probably the two best formats to start with. Non-profits can use donor campaigns and benefit from a greater public trust of non-profits versus other types of institutions, while benefit corporations can take advantage of the investment-based seed money available to for-profit enterprises while still ensuring that fulfillment of the corporation’s mission is legally given precedence over profit when making business decisions.