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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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

MinnPost blog critic asks “What’s the best platform for bloggers?”


Coutesy of

Tooting my horn here: Justin Piehowski, 30, blog critic for and winner of five Regional Emmy Awards for his work as a Web Manager at KSTP-TV, asked bloggers some questions about their experiences launching blogs. Piehowski mentioned my RepJ blog and See what he wrote below in quotes:

“Bonnie Obremski uses WordPress on her new Representative Journalism Project blog. She was exposed to it while contributing to the community news site Locally Grown Northfield.”

She said she really likes the attractive templates on WordPress and has already recommended it to a family member. However, she gets very frustrated with trying to embed .html code of videos and slideshows from other sites onto her WordPress blog. The process is not smooth, she said.”

OK so not earth-shattering information coming from me there. But in case you’re interested in seeing the whole interview, which Justin and I did via e-mail (we’re facebook AND Twitter friends now!), read on.

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Filed under Anecdotes, Business, Citizen Participation, LocallyGrownNorthfield, Project discussion, Project progress

Get yer summer intern! A RepJ feature story


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Filed under Business, Citizen Participation, Economic development, Youth

Can the stories of Northfield’s seniors offer perspective on today’s economy?

Linda Seebach, the Representative Journalism Project’s copy and collaborating editor, told me about a story she read on PoynterOnline today that discussed how a Minneapolis television reporter collected stories from local senior citizens who had lived during the Great Depression.

We’re interested in gathering similar stories that Northfield’s senior citizens have to tell. Send a story, photographs, video or a tip to Or begin the discussion here.


Filed under Citizen Participation, Senior Citizens