Civic Journalism and Cyberspace: Are the Two Compatible?

Have you ever heard the expression: If it's not broke, don't fix it? From a business perspective the assumption is to continue current practices if customers are satisfied, co-workers are happy and profit margins are thick. Various media polls indicate, however, that newspaper editors and publishers have a lot of "fixing" to do.

According to Jay Rosen, New York University professor and civic journalism advocate, only 45 percent of Americans said they read a daily newspaper the previous day, down from 58 percent in February 1994 and 71 percent in a comparable study in 1965. A 1994 Times Mirror Company study concluded that most Americans, 71 percent, felt the press got in the way of solving society's problems. These trends point toward a growing dissatisfaction among readers toward newspapers.

Civic journalism is a relatively new concept that could improve the above statistics. Although there is no consensus from communication scholars and working journalists on the definition, civic journalism is a way to reconnect readers to the newspaper and engage them in a dialogue that may lead to problem solving. David Blomquist of the Record in Hackensack, N.J. and Cliff Zukin of Rutgers University said civic journalism accomplishes three things: it better informs the public about politics and police; it leads to greater public participation, and it gives reporters and their respective news organization greater credibility and higher esteem. Approaches to civic journalism include, but are not limited to, enterprise stories supported with editorials, focus groups, surveys and polls, and newspaper-sponsored town meetings. Opponents of civic journalism say it's nothing more than advocacy journalism that lessens journalists' credibility. Journalists, they contend, should not be involved in taking sides. Let's examine the ramifications of civic journalism within the context of online publications.

The Contents Guide

Insights and discussions from working journalists and communication scholars.
My experiences as a city hall reporter for the Bradenton Herald, a Knight-Ridder paper.
Take a look at references and related links about civic (public) journalism and online publications.

I hope this site is useful for working journalists and mass communications scholars interested in learning more about civic journalism. As we move toward the 21st Century, the Internet will have a greater impact on how journalists gather and report the news. If you have any questions or comments about the site, feel free to send e-mail to the webmaster, Kevin McDonald, at home or school.