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Ad agency starts up online newspaper, 'community journalism' ensues

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My thoughts in this column have been almost completely retracted in another blog post, which can be found here.

I found this column by The Seattle Times’ Jerry Large pretty interesting.

For those who don’t feel like following the link, here’s the gist: An ad agency in Orting, Wash. has created an online newspaper to fill the void of the recently folded weekly, the Orting Gazette. The stories are written by community members and edited by employees at Carr Knowledge, the ad agency in question. Any reader complaints, questions, etc. go straight to the writers and it appears that there’s no editor-in-chief or anything like that (other than, of course, the ad agency at large, which as the owner has ultimate control over the content).

As Large comments, the site, “isn’t the solution, but it is one solution, particularly on the business end.”

I don’t think, on a network like Wired Journalists, I need to start railing about all the ethical pitfalls of a project like this — we all know what they are.

What concerns me particularly, though, is that the Orting News Web site does nothing (at least at first glance) to distinguish itself from a traditional newspaper.

I don’t mean to come across as an elitist or anything; I think it’s great that the Orting community has found a way to fill the void their newspaper left. I’m also well aware of the fact that as far as the law — i.e. the Supreme Court — is concerned, there’s really no difference between a journalist and your average citizen. Still, if a bunch of armchair psychologists started up a site dedicated to giving mental health advice or a group of unordained Catholicism enthusiasts started offering religious guidance, people would be completely up in arms.

I’d love feedback on this.

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