By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Media Nation on citizen journalism

Globe West reporter Lisa Kocian takes a look at citizen journalism in Greater Boston, focusing on HopNews.com, which covers the town of Hopkinton. Among other things, she quotes me on this burgeoning movement.


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12 Comments

  1. adamg

    Yay for HopNews.com! But, um, guys, maybe just a tad fewer ads?

  2. Anonymous

    Ok, so what’s up in the bingo halls up there in Hopkinton these days??Any tree being cut down that needs protesting or a zoning board vote we should scuttle???You know, I am not a big fan of these locals…I commend citizen involvement and the prelevance of hacks in many town positions needs the counterbabalancing of citizens checking on them.But part of me thinks it is one huge waste of money. There is nothing in there, unique to one town that couldn’t be reported i na a very competent Boston metro paper or site. All these little papers…all these sites for every town almost in Mass -we’re talking dozens- and all the ad salespeople and all the fluff stories.It seems people want to close their eyes and ears to crimes in Boston, sadness in Louisiana, upheavel in the world and pick up a little happy newspaper that tells them everything is jolly in your neighboorhood.It’s a big waste of resources and deflects time and interest off people’s ability to support and follow major dailies and by extention, undermines the health of Journalism’s reach in our nation and how it is perceived and what people think its mission ought to be really.There are bigger things in life and bigger fish to fry than put up pictures of local people in the front page so we turn even more people into Front Page heros.It waters down so many other countless things.I don’t mean to dimish what good reporters on the ground do, like Lisa -I am not sure about how good her work is- or any other.I just wish people would be more nationalistic without being a yahoo necessarily.Paying attention is all it takes. Getting diverted by the local police blotter doesn’t help much.Call me scrouge call me skeptic call me party crasher. But that’s my word, and by Golly I’m sticking to it. (Pheeew) -I watch too many movies. Am I goona hear form that Watertown reporter now??? God, I hope not.N.

  3. Anonymous

    N.Has anyone mentioned that you’re an asshole.A

  4. Anonymous

    You just did.(…breaks my heart…lol)But yo know what I am glad to get from a panty wearing a$$-kissing panty-wearer who can’t satnd it when others express their opinion frankly.You know that little thing enshirned in the Constitution??You’d rather me rubber-stamp the feel-good column and tell you also “oh how wonderful!”Hey, doesn’t surprise me. That’s why Dems and liberals haven’t been able to get aelected even if they paid people unfortunately.Because they want hypocrytes liek you do.Come on, more names, A. YOu have to do better than that.Or how about an opinion for a change or aeven a rebuttal. WHy do you disagree…You can do better….come on!

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Let me offer a more civilized response to N. I can’t believe you don’t see the value of local journalism. Good grief. Whatever happened to “Act Locally, Think Globally”?

  6. Anonymous

    What happened Dan, is that it has been taken to extreme, overlooking other great priorities and principle.Can you please tell me the last time a local daily broke a somewhat important story.The Herald’s group of local dailies/weeklies have more of a financial value to the group than a journalistic one. It is their cash cow since it is a glorified advertising display case. It is a vehicle for ad money and not a journalism bee factory.There are exceptions of course and award-winning Eagle Tribune -not a true small local paper but not a national major one- is a good case FOR. But let’s face it, the vast majority of these local outfits are NO Toledo Blades.I understand you’d like to accord importance to every operation that LOOKS like a paper but let’s take ANY paper you’d like, one issue, and dissect what are the really must read stories, high value info you absolutely you need beyond blotters and arrest records and local fairs and yard sale schedules.I am sorry I see things in a broader perspective and don’t want to take small gains and lose sight of some big losses.There is a value to any paper or any reporter snooping for info. Someone, somewhere will like and use the info. But when is it not primordial and scraping it could save money and would not be missed? In my mind: OFTEN.I respect your view that the majority shares. But I am not sure I should not let my view go against the grain and try to focus at least ONE person out there to see more relevant aspects of our civil life.I can sit on my street for a hwole day and report to you how many cars passed by, what kind of brands, what kind of drivers: age, race profession. Their speed could benefit the Police dept. I can tell you how many stopped at a yellow light and how many went through a red light. The ratio of red to silver cars.That is useful info to someone out there. Many in fact. Is it useful to you? Would you like me to do that and waste my day doing that? Where does it stop? When does it become non-vital?Do you see my point? Do you think there is ANY redeeming value to where I am getting at?You can have a network of disperssed journalists in the state but why do they have to be organized into costly satellite operations that feed into a bigger organ?I am willing to admit I am in the minority since many have been reared on accepting local dailies. But does it mean I am automatically wrong?? How many people have questioned this before or thought they could?I feel better when I seem to have woken someone up when they answer by a one-liner insult and NO answer back arguing otherwise, except for a cowardly hit-and-run jab, a validating one nonetheless. That tells me I got to them and they hate non status quo thinking. Do I have to predictably follow along like a sheep? N.

  7. neil

    N, despaireth not, I take your point to some extent. I live in Lynn and the Daily Item has been a listless read for at least 40 years. I don’t know what keeps it going. My mother used to get it for the police log, to keep track of the kids she taught, but it’s not enough reason for me to buy it.When it’s your kid on the basketball team whose picture they print (or who gets busted for assault) or it’s your neighborhood where they want to blast to put in new houses, or the Councilor in Ward 6 seems to be up to some funny business, all of a sudden that tired local rag matters. Local stories are as dull as dust, till they hit home.Anyway it isn’t a zero-sum game. Improved local coverage made possible by new technologies doesn’t subtract from coverage of larger issues on big city, regional or national levels. It’s a net gain I think, because you’ve got more people paying attention, who now have a conduit to pass what they see onto others. If they have time to count cars all day, so much the better. It’s not like they’d be reporting on Middle East politics, if only they weren’t stuck counting the darn cars.If local info is not of interest to you, and certainly most isn’t, no harm, you can ignore it.

  8. Anonymous

    Neil,You make some good points, but tying the fortunes of community journalism into the dying Lynn Item is like judging the NBA by only looking at the history of the L.A. Clippers.

  9. Anonymous

    Neil,I like your response and how you put it all in context.But I didn’t say I didn’t care about local news. I care a LOT.I am just saying we are pouring way too much money and work too hard and too costly to make locals into viable operations.What I am thinking is something like how the Globe does Globe North, Globe Metrowest and maybe Globe Cape, Globe Berkshires etc. Why can’t a major daily encompass such coverage and harness it into a more credible, wider ranging, money saving print pub that gets distributed to all these communities and has a great comprehensive coverage? The Globe is just an example , it could be the Herald or any other major metro pub in the nation.That was ALL I was saying. Look at it this way, isn’t it sad that the Herald’s local papers are a more attractive asset and drain money and respect from the main paper while the Herald itslef is languishing and struggling? Shouldn’t the priority be the paper to be made to succeed is the the main one first? Doesn’t it make sense??But I guess Journalism and media is all about follow the money now. That’s the problem now with Radio, print and TV. Money guides Journalism’s mission and muzzles it and bankrupts it at will.Oh well.It is the lack of sophistication and critical thinking that Isee in front of me, in the most powerful nation n earth that is a direct byproduct of mismanaging News and how we teach it to kids and how we view it and how we let corrupted Murdoch and Limbaugh paint it.We let it all happen and you know what happens? A things like as small and insignificant as someone branding me an a-hole for solely expressing my views in a post that contain NO offensive material or insult or views, except MY unusual opinion.That’s what you get, DUMB readers and uncivil human beings.I say it is unbefitting our great country.But I guess some people think small so they’ll have to agrandize their ‘precious little paper coverage’ that only requires 8th grade reding skill to decipher.Well, enjoy!And thanks Neil for the gracious answer.N.

  10. Anonymous

    N.Quick answer on why the Globe can’t do it. They’re zoned (North, West, etc.) sections are bleeding money. Meanwhile, the only reason buyers are looking at the Herald is because the CNC papers actually make money.Also, get off your high horse about your constitutional rights being violated because I called you an a-hole. I apologize for taking the lowest common denominator, but after a long day working at one of those (non-CNC) local papers that you flog as being filled with “puff pieces” that no one cares about, where the readers only have an “eighth grade reding skill”, I was just a little too pissed to give you the long answer.Neil has some good points. And you too, N, are right in that most people could give a rat’s ass about 99 of the 100 local papers that are out there. The only one they likely do care about is the one covering their hometown. And, ture, a lot of the stuff is boring as dirt, but the Globe (or even the smaller dailies) are not going to take the time to explain why your tax rates are going up or what the candidates running for council in Ward 2 care about. As for the puff pieces, I can tell you that after a decade in this business, these are the pieces that people read, cut out, and save in their scrapbooks. If it’s not your cup of tea, move on.Once again, N., I apologize for the bad choice of words, but just because I think you came off sounding like an a-hole on your post, let’s not think I’m trying to take away your rights to sound like an a-hole. Hell, I even read one of your recent posts on Mark’s site and agreed with it.Thanks,A

  11. Anonymous

    N. -I couldn’t agree more that we need more critical thinking skills in the media. Certainly the more that print, radio and TV feel the need to compromise their objectivity to keep their underwriters happy, the more likely they are, collectively, to let their brains wither. And we, the reading / listening / viewing public, increasingly run the risk ourselves of become more and more credulous over time, as we become more and more inured to the Short Attention Span Theatre of valueless journalism.But I think there is ample evidence that the dearth of critical thinking in journalism that we are witnessing is hitting hardest where the money is greatest. (Small papers are small fish; the economic forces trying to drag them under are often rather different.) I think it often takes only one really good story, hitting us like cold water in the face, to wake us up to what we have been missing. Sometimes the cogent writer is working for a small town paper. Sometimes the story broken in the little paper becomes too big for the big ones to ignore.Little papers have other advantages. When I graduated from college in the early ’90s I moved to Marblehead (MA), where I felt the town paper really brought me into the community. I felt I knew what was going on in my town, and what it meant. I knew what streets would be blocked by the parade on what day (and whether I would attend or flee it). Profiles of locals became a way to start conversations (if I bumped into the town celebrity chef at the grocery I could congratulate him or her on the story).Not all little papers are so worthy. The local paper in the Boston neighborhood I moved to had a single reporter who left basic questions unanswered and simple words unspellchecked. The contents of the editorial and op-ed pages were unintellectual, parochial and sometimes frankly hateful, and espoused political and religious philosophies I couldn’t support. I saw that I, as (1) an interloper who hadn’t been born or raised there, but who was nevertheless living there, and (2) didn’t much care for returning to the way all things were in 1958, was a local embodiment of The Problem and therefore Wasn’t Welcome. I would submit that this too is valuable information. And I certainly didn’t get it from the Globe’s City Weekly (which never bothered to report when a parade might trap me inside my home for a few critical hours. Then again, the local paper often wouldn’t bother either).(I don’t live there anymore; while I lived there I kept my head down and my mouth shut. But if anything, the pace of change there is only increasing.)I do think that the more diversity of media outlets we have the richer our intellectual culture. Granted that many in the media are morally compromised, or uninquisitive, or have short attention spans or are frankly stupid: everyone who writes or speaks in the public sphere is banging their head against some problem and letting us see whether the problem has moved or changed as a result.And that includes the fluff stories, which tell the reader that there is value in the efforts of ordinary people and gives him or her a reason to celebrate others’ work or to do some of his or her own.My two cents’ worth.

  12. Anonymous

    Ahhhh,I am glad, coming back from work, to see cooler heads prevail and civility shines back.Nothing like a great, clear meaningful (now polite) discussion. Thanks for making that possible again everyone.Merry Christmas Everyone.N.

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