The NYT is taking its citizen journalism project seriously. 'The Local', its online section dedicated to all things community based, is delegating reporting roles to eager citizens, asking them to cover local body meetings.
The 'missions' are posted on the website, alongside instructions and relevant information. To sign up, enthusiasts just have to express their interest on the site, and wait to receive further 'training' and directions.
The first mission, posted on July 5, was apparently successfully completed. The second, the coverage of the Community Board meeting at Long Island Community Health Center this Wednesday, has been released.
The logistics of the project are managed by an online 'virtual assignment desk'. Underlining the 'collaborative' nature of the initiative is the distinction of the application into two parts. The first 'be the journalist' lists the events needing a citizen to cover them. The second, 'assign the journalist' is a 'tip box' in which users are invited to post their concerns or interests concerning the community deserving of attention on the blog.
'The Local' content is generated by residents in the community and NYT journalists. The site's creators maintain that the delegation of reporting roles, using the 'virtual assignment desk' will make 'The Local a 'true collaboration with the community and get a lot more stuff of neighbourhood importance up on the blog'.
The formal designation of journalistic assignments to amateurs via online news sites is a relatively recent development, which looks set to augment the importance of the 'user'. Local news provision, primarily the online services, are increasingly dependent on citizen journalism and user generated content. Despite the celebration of the practice by prestigious publications such as the NYT (although it is firmly restricted to designated areas within the publication), the practice is controversial. Critics are concerned about the standards and reliability of reporting that amateur involvement will produce, and of course the potential implications that the practice presents for the professional sanctity of the vocational journalist.
Source: Evolving Newsrooms