This research, tracking the conception, launch and first year of a community media site was produced by Doug Fisher, an instructor at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, who partnered with the twice-a-week Hartsville Messenger. The project was funded by a J-Lab New Voices grant.
Hartsville Today: The first year of a small-town citizen-journalism site
By Doug Fisher, Instructor USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications
The Hartsville Messenger, a twice-a-week newspaper with a staff of five, has its hands full trying to cover an area of about 20,000 people around Hartsville, S.C. So in 2005-06 it partnered with the University of South Carolina to launch a web site both to give its staff a place to publish community news more quickly and to give the community a place for some citizen-generated content. The effort was funded by J-Lab’s New Voices project.
They came up with HartsvilleToday.com - plus a 72-page “cookbook” (see Resources box on the right) that details what they did and how they did it, sprinkled with advice from their learning curve. While it’s a guide for small daily and non-daily newspapers, the lessons apply to anyone seeking to start up a community news project.
“This project is vitally important to smaller papers because if newspapers don’t ‘get there first’ in the communities we serve, you can be sure someone else will.”