Thursday, February 24, 2005

"The Wicker Park Tribune," coming soon to a website near you

Columnist Steve Outing of the journal Editor & Publisher has a rational and well-thought-out argument today concerning the topic of "citizen journalism" - that is, of recruiting non-journalists to produce some of the news a traditional journalism outlet releases to the public. He makes a lot of really good points in the article that I won't bother rehashing; what I did want to mention, though, is that it's gotten my mind thinking about the concept of adding special sections to a traditional newspaper, based on tiny topics or neighborhoods that the newspaper would not normally be able to afford to cover.

Take Chicago, for example, which has something like 150 different neighborhoods, each of them significantly different than the others. What if the Chicago Tribune set up 150 new sections of their website, each of them covering merely one neighborhood in the city, with citizens of that neighborhood in charge of submitting news articles and a Tribune editor overseeing it all, making sure that the items pass the minimum of journalistic muster? It would in effect create a tiny little newspaper just for those couple of hundred people in that neighborhood (but one with the reliability of a mainstream news organization), with news items they may passionately care about that the rest of the world could care less about - a new bar opening in the neighborhood, someone getting mugged on a specific streetcorner, etc. It's an incredibly intriguing idea, and one I think worth looking into more.