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RESEARCH

Mission Statements

Mission Statement Excerpts

NewHavenIndependent.org

 

“...New Haven. Its neighborhoods. Its government. Its people - from the knuckleheads to the dreamers and schemers, and everyone in between.

That’s what this web site is about: A five-day-a-week report on news about the City of New Haven, Connecticut, produced by a veteran local journalist, and by you.

NewHavenIndependent.org is rooted in and devoted to the city. We believe that democracy starts at home, with smart, thorough, in-depth local news reporting and broad citizen debate about local issues. Thanks to the Internet, journalists and news-deprived citizens need no longer be hostages to out-of-state media conglomerates. We can reclaim our communities. Power of the press now belongs not to those who own one, but to those who own a modem.

We own a modem…

...NewHavenIndependent.org features daily reports on news about New Haven neighborhoods, government, politics, criminal justice, schools, business, arts and culture. It links readers to other web sites with information about New Haven. It also links readers to the good work produced by surviving reporters at other New Haven newspapers and TV and radio stations.

And it depends on your contributions. Please send us photos and news tips. Add your comments at the end of articles. (One rule: Be civil.) Let us know what you like—and don’t like. Tell others about us (preferably by sending them e-mail messages with the link to the site). And sharpen that red pencil to inform us of misspellings, typos and other errors. We’ll keep track of who catches the most mistakes and give out periodic Independent coffee mugs to the winners. (Sites such as ours can’t afford proofreaders.) ...”



NewWest.net

 

“In a time of dramatic change, New West aims to serve as a nexus of dialogue and a smart guide to the news and issues that are affecting one of the greatest places on Earth. We aim to foster a bond among communities that may be distant in geography or occupation, but share common interests and hopes for the region as it wrestles with growth and change. We stand for forward thinking about the big picture and believe that citizen engagement will be instrumental in the development of the region. On our Web sites you will find commentary and original reportage on the big issues, as well as a wealth of fun and useful information on everyday matters ranging from gardening and animals to books, film and travel. You will also find places where you, the reader, can make your ideas and opinions heard through our ‘Unfiltered’ sites.”

Citizens actually read the mission statements posted on citizen media sites, maybe because whatever your site is - a citizen enterprise, a professional site, a citizen-professional hybrid - it requires explaining. Site operators interviewed for this report frequently volunteered that they rarely had to intervene to tamp down bad behavior. Many credited contributors for heeding the goals articulated in their terms of service (no threats, no personal attacks, no publishing copyrighted material, etc.), and in the “About” statements that characterize sites as places for citizens to disseminate news and chat constructively. 

Steve Yelvington helped craft a mission statement for Bluffton Today using the language developed by a working group at a Poynter Institute Web+10 conference. The language defines what he called “a new social contract between old media and citizens around the concept of participation.”

The site statement reads, in part: “With your help, we will provide a friendly, safe, easy to use place on the Web for everyone in Bluffton to post news items, create a unified community calendar, and share photos, recipes, opinions ... In return, we ask that you meet this character challenge: be a good citizen and exhibit community leadership qualities.”

Yelvington said, “Much to our positive surprise, people read [the statement] “and took it seriously. They bought into the social contract.” 

When the contract is violated he tries to defuse the offender with a light touch. Yelvington recounted how an incident at a girls’ lacrosse championship game migrated into a flame war on the site, with the high school girls posting under fake names. He quickly unpublished the attacks, suspended the accounts of two combatants and told them they had to call a site administrator named Ryan to re-activate. He also sent a note to “the rest of you,” saying, “This is a small town, and it may look anonymous. But if you think people can’t figure out who you are, you’re wrong. Don’t make Ryan have to call your Dad.” In the aftermath, he said, “A couple of the girls became real leaders on the web site with their real names.”

Site operators report inevitable tensions between maintaining civility and upholding the freedom and openness of expression that web dwellers demand. Mark Dilley is a member of a collective that decides policy for Arbor Update, a volunteer-run Ann Arbor, Michigan, news site that declares in its mission statement, “The true value of the site is not in the posts themselves but in the discussion.”

Dilley said the site lost half its traffic while organizers debated how to handle an inflammatory and frequent poster, given the site’s commitment to open discussion. The group compromised by creating a 90-day probationary period for new posters.

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