Citizen Journalism Web Sites Likely to Survive, Report Finds

Local news Web sites offering content generated by users are securing a place in the media landscape and are likely to remain important sources of community news, a new report from J-Lab in College Park, Maryland, finds.

Funded by the New York City-based Ford Foundation, the report, Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News: The Rise and Prospects of Hyperlocal Journalism, addresses the question of whether so-called citizen journalism sites are sustainable. Rather than delivering comprehensive news, most such sites mix reports about key issues in their communities with less formal items of local interest, said J-Lab director and author of the report Jan Schaffer.

Based on in-depth interviews of thirty different sites and a sixty-question online survey that targeted five hundred citizen journalism sites in the fall of 2006, the report found that a sizable majority (71 percent) of survey respondents pronounced their sites to be a "success," with 82 percent saying they provided opportunities for dialogue. More than fourth-fifths (81 percent) also said they planned to operate their sites indefinitely.

"This report is the most comprehensive I have seen in documenting the community media revolution," said Dean Thomas Kunkel of the Merrill College of Journalism, which houses J-Lab. "It quantifies what has been inherently difficult to quantify. And it shows in great detail how different entrepreneurs are employing different models and with different goals in mind."

"CitMedia Sites Are Here to Stay." J-Lab Press Release 02/05/2007.