Category Archives: Project progress

WSJ: “Newspapers need to act like they’re worth something”

This week, L. Gordon Crovitz of The Wall Street Journal wrote the opinion piece, ” Information Wants to Be Expensive: Newspapers need to act like they’re worth something.


Courtesy of

For years, Crovitz wrote, publishers and editors have asked the wrong question: Will people pay to access my newspaper content on the Web? The right question is: What kind of journalism can my staff produce that is different and valuable enough that people will pay for it online?

I’m interested in hearing what folks think of this essay. I’m not sure I agree with everything Mr. Crovitz writes. Haven’t most newspapers always been trying “valuable” content?

If independent writers in Northfield produced content that you valued more than that of a reporter employed by a company, would you be wiling to pay for that independent reporter to keep up his or her news beat?


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Filed under Business, National, Project discussion

Agricultural Preservation vs. Industrial Development

Northfield’s citizens are trying to attract industrial developers to build upon farmland in an effort to boost the local economy, since industrial development can lead to higher tax revenue and more jobs. Still, not everyone is convinced that “paving paradise” is worth that potential boost.

The amount of agricultural land in Minnesota dropped by about 600,000 acres between 2002 and 2007, according to state census data. Is that loss something more people should care about?

That question is just one I intend to answer in my next in-depth story for the Representative Journalism Project.

I welcome my readers to help lead me to important information on this topic that will deepen all of our understanding.


Filed under Agriculture, Project progress

Opinion: ‘You can’t sell news by the slice’

Sam Friedman of the Carletonian student newspaper told me about this New York Times opinion piece during our bi-weekly journalism discussion at the Goodbye Blue Monday cafe this morning.

” Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on,” author Michael Kinsley wrote.

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Journalism coffee talk: Tuesday 8 a.m.

This is an open invitation for everyone to join Sam Friedman, a Carleton student, and me at the Goodbye Blue Monday cafe on Division Street tomorrow at 8 a.m. (Tuesday, Feb.9.) for journalism-related discussion.

Sam works at the Carletonian student newspaper. He suggested we form the discussion group after he attended a meeting in January at the Bittersweet Eatery during which a group of people talked about the Representative Journalism Project. We’ll put a sign on our table to identify where we’re sitting. Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Citizen Participation, Project discussion

RepJ through the ages

Representative Journalism is a concept people in the journalism industry have been talking about at least since the nineteenth century, according to a New York Times obituary dated September 28, 1886.

“The [Boston] Post under Mr. [Charles] Greene’s management was a model of typography, good temper, refinement, moderation and independence, a combination of characteristics not too often met with in representative journalism.”

Col. Charles Gordon Greene, who founded the Post and worked as its editor for 44 years, died at age 82 and was a native of Boscawen, N.H. The Post folded in the face of competition in 1956, but won a Pulitzer prize in 1921 and once had a circulation of more than a million, according to an article on Wikipedia.

The obituary does not go on to define representative journalism any further, so it would be hard to say whether the term held the same meaning as it does today. However, it seems the obituary’s author might have been a skeptic as to the quality of most of the news that fell into that category at that time.

About a century later, an article published in Wired magazine titled “Mrs. and Mr. Roberts’ Neighborhood,” contained the term “representative journalism.” The celebrity subjects of the story exhibited much skepticism of the representative journalism notion.

“Cokie Roberts and her husband, Steven Roberts, were alarmed recently to learn that between 250,000 and 350,000 people log on to the Consumer Project on Technology Web site every day to monitor congressional activities in Washington,” Jon Katz wrote on April 16, 1997. “It did not strike the couple – one of Washington’s most influential and visible – as cause to celebrate a new and participatory electronic democracy that could reconnect Americans with their civic lives.”

“Cokie and Steven Roberts are Washington’s first couple of journalism,” Katz wrote. “She is the daughter of two former members of Congress, and is an NPR reporter; she also co-hosts, with Sam Donaldson, ABC’s This Week. He is a former New York Times reporter and writer and editor for US News & World Report.”

Katz went on to say, “People like Cokie and Steven Roberts have long decided what stories would be covered and what information we’d get. The idea that hundreds of thousands of Americans would presume to do the same isn’t a stirring idea to them, as the column demonstrates, but a terror discussed nonstop at Washington cocktail parties.”

Leonard Witt, who coined the term “representative journalism” on August 24, 2007, according to his blog, offered the following definition at that time.

“News operations…will have to join the niche movement. Rather than think in terms of a circulation of, let’s say, 100,000, they should think in terms of 100 niche markets of 1,000 each and form membership communities around those niches.”

“The centerpiece for each membership community will be the news and information tailored to each community’s needs, with a reporter and editing support devoted specifically to each community of 1,000. Online social networking, interactivity, face-to-face events will all be used to build group cohesion.”

“A network weaver will help to bring the groups together. The 100 individual groups can be diverse as a lawyers’ group, wanting local legally related news, to hunters to low level healthcare workers, wanting their information needs met by their own group’s Representative Journalist.”

“Then all these niche membership groups are aggregated under an umbrella news operation, which in turn might be aggregated further with other umbrella operations nationwide or internationally wide.”

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RepJ founder receives $1.5 million to build Center for Sustainable Journalism in Georgia


Leonard Witt, RepJ founder

“I am extremely pleased to announce that the Harnisch Foundation, thanks to its founder and president, Ruth Ann Harnisch, is providing the Kennesaw State University Foundation with a pledged gift of $1.5 million for me to start The Center for Sustainable Journalism here at the university.”  — Leonard Witt, RepJ founder

Read more here.

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Is it ‘fair’ to only pay for the NY Times?

The Associated Press article “NY Times Editor Hints At Return Of Online Access Fees” is attracting lively discussion on the Huffington Post Web site. Cynthia Typaldos, founder of the soon-to-be-launched Kachingle, recently posted the following comment. Kachingle is a company that will allow the public to easily bestow micro-payment donations contributions to their favorite Web sites.

“I fully understand your desire to pay something for the NYTimes. But what about the HuffPost? You are here too…are you getting some value from this news site? And what about the other sites/blogs that you read/use?

My point is that it might not be ‘fair’ to pay only for the NYTimes, but not for anything else that you actively use and value.”

What would the people of Northfield pay for, how much would they pay, and why? That’s one of the questions I’m trying to figure out and I’m wondering if my latest story is drawing any closer to a product citizens would value.


Filed under Business, Citizen Participation, Poll, Project discussion