In my last post I outlined the mission of my community journalism project. This project takes a tool (social media) and places it in an environment with little to no existing conversation.
In case you missed it, here’s the mission again:
To create an online forum to offer a conversation about the existing diverse passions and stories of a small community.
Sure, sounds good – but content is king. So what would be discussed and who would discuss it?
Here’s the deal: People love to discuss their communities – which is part of the reason people are willing to put up with crappy news. It’s the reason social media has exploded. And it’s all because ultimately, life is a social event.
In small communities, there are a few core, physical social nodes. They vary, but typical ones are the church, the school and the tavern. Local government, businesses and social clubs are common also.
By identifying the existing social networks, we can then identify the sources of the content – the “agents of conversation.” Agents could include: The mayor, the school superintendent, the basketball coach, a local pastor, a local business owner… the list goes on. But the real criteria is that it’s people who are contributing and participating in the community. They’re people whom traditional media would be targeting anyways.
Again – this is not good ol’ hard-hitting journalism. But it is an opportunity for an existing community to better communicate what is happening in their lives.
- The mayor directly speaking on upcoming local initiatives, everything from raising the sales tax to pay for pothole improvements to his thoughts on the county’s new lake proposal.
- The basketball coach discussing how parents and fans can get involved to help the team. Or doing his or her own game re-caps.
- The school principal or superintendent speaking on new teacher hires, changes in the state’s educational system or addressing consolidation fears.
And in the true sense of social media, the conversations are two-way. A dialogue is born.
That point leads to my final thought on this post: Community buy- in.
My theory on buy-in is something I was taught repeatedly in my Sigma Chi leadership days –
People support what they help create.
And man is it true. Let them in, give away ownership, embrace critique and celebrate participation. It works in business, it works in social organizations, it works in communities – everywhere.
By putting the conversation in the hands of those it directly affects, you’ve spread out ownership. And by spreading ownership, you’ve spread the commitment.
My next post will be on layout and presentation. Soon, I’d like to draw up a simple step-by-step on how to set up a WordPress blog template on your very own domain.