J-Lab recommendations for community news sites and their supporters
The following list of recommendations for community news sites and their supporters is excerpted from “New Voices: What Works”, a report authored by J-Lab’s Executive Director, Jan Schaffer, that offers a rich set of “lessons from funding five years of community news start-ups”. You can also view the full report and a list of “ten key takeaways” here.
J-Lab Recommendations for Community News Sites and Supporters
For those who seek to launch their own community news sites, be they professional or amateur journalists, we urge you to:
- Start simply with free or open-source software.
- Be sure project leaders stay involved; delegating key tasks to grad assistants or volunteers doesn’t work.
- Build in a community editor or partnership coordinator on the front end to engage in the high-touch work of teasing out content contributors.
- Hook interest from entities with established infrastructures – agricultural extension agencies, public libraries, community technology centers.
- Try everything. Keep what works and redo what doesn’t. Be willing to do so quickly.
- Remember that the community doesn’t only want news; it wants connections as well.
- Think of your task as not just covering community, but building it as well.
For those in a position to support new developments in the community news ecosystem, consider interventions that:
- Build up social media skills for community news sites.
- Convene existing site operators with wannabe site founders.
- Provide training in grant writing and management.
- Establish a New Ideas Fund for ideas that surface after the project really understands what it needs.
- Build a second-tier Tech Fund for sites ready for more complex web development.
- Ramp up donor education so that interested high-wealth individuals understand opportunities for supporting new media infrastructures.
- Develop ad software that can help small sites monetize their value to their communities.