From Editor & Publisher: New Desk in the Newsroom: The Citizen Editor’s
Clear out some more office space in the newsroom. Knock out a wall. Buy some new desks.
Make room for the new citizen editor(s).
We have a bona fide news-industry trend in “citizen journalism” — the notion that it’s an admirable thing and in a news organization’s self-interest to encourage members of the public to participate in news publishing. News Web sites and initiatives in newsrooms are asking citizens (that is, the audience) to contribute not only their opinions but even to submit their own personal “news.” The theory is that this citizen content and enhanced interaction complement professional journalism.
Citizen-journalism initiatives are popping up over the place at newspapers. And even if those publishers plying these uncharted waters are still a small minority, the trend is unmistakable.
Ergo, there’s a new position opening up in some newsrooms: the citizen editor.
…At the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, a Scripps newspaper, a citizen-journalism site debuted about a month ago. YourHub.com is comprised of about 40 Web sites, each covering a city or town in the Denver metro area. Content is a mix of contributions from community members, the occasional staff-written story, and hand-picked links to other publications’ articles about YourHub.com cities.
What may strike you as remarkable (it did me) is that in these early days, the site has a staff of 11 full-time editors. Led by managing editor Travis Henry, YourHub employs one “community editor,” one “producer,” four “community journalists,” and four “community assistants.” They are responsible for producing not only the 40 community Web sites that are part of YourHub.com, but also 15 zoned print editions featuring the best content from the sites, which are inserted into the newspaper.
Henry says the staff is a mix of seasoned journalists and recent journalism graduates. Some have worked for daily and weekly newspapers, in radio, and in media/public relations. Community assistant Kevin Hamm, who has a journalism degree, has a resume that includes bookstore manager, mortgage banker, ski bum, and stay-at-home dad. Everyone on the staff has some sort of journalism background.
Henry acknowledges that the jobs in his department are different than the traditional, and describes them as a cross between doing journalistic tasks like editing and design and marketing the site in order to recruit community content contributors.
A big part of working for YourHub.com is acting in an “ambassador” role, he says, not solely as a journalist. That means encouraging people to submit content. For example, an editor might note that a community event is taking place and contact the organizers to urge that they submit text or photographs (or request that of event participants). A story might run where a community journalist or assistant adds a call for readers to add what they know about the topic or event, expanding on the original story.
YourHub.com editors also write for the site on occasion, acting as “citizen reporters” themselves (albeit paid) — even using the same publishing interface to file a story as do community members. It might surprise you to know that such staff articles are edited before publication. Citizen articles, on the other hand, are left untouched — except for some minor spelling and grammar editing (or occasional cuts due to space limitations) on articles to be included in the zoned print editions.
YourHub.com is very interesting indeed.