On Public Interest Journalism, and the role of Community Curators
As the newspaper industry has struggled to adapt to the impact of the Internet on their business model, budgets have been slashed and newsrooms have been decimated by repeated layoffs. This is felt in local communities everywhere, as journalist coverage of government and governance has been cut back.
It’s important to know who the elected officials and the department heads are, in your local city and county and state governments. It’s important to know when decision or deliberation meetings occur, and to know what happened there. As tedious as attending all of the meetings is, it is an essential service provided by the journalists of your local paper, and there are fewer journalists at fewer papers doing the job today.
Civinomics was, in part, organized to address the gaps in local public interest journalism. As mentioned in a previous blog post, a step in that direction is the new Meetings feature. Santa Cruz County members will see a new tab in their home page after logging in, titled “Upcoming Meetings”. A list of city and county public meetings is displayed, with the name and jurisdiction of the group, the meeting date and location listed. As soon as meeting agendas are released to the public (often just a few days before the meeting, in PDF, yipes!), Civinomics staff update the online meeting listings with the full agenda. Online agenda items may be voted upon and commented upon.
We’re excited to start development of more new tools for members to act as crowdsourced curators in their communities. Community Curators will supplement many of the information gathering and maintenance aspects of professional public interest journalists in their hometown newspapers, such as keeping up to date lists of local elected officials and their contact information, public meetings and agendas, lists of local community resources and voter guides/sample ballots for local elections.
This can be a labor intensive process, as local governments are slow to release information in easy to import formats (PDF! Yipes!). Community Curators are a way to crowdsource this effort and for Civinomics members to become heroes of the Fourth Estate.