The Pew Center is launching a new initiative J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. Describing the intiative: “J-Lab will support newsroom experiments that advance civic participation in the digital arena and spotlight and reward best practices.”
“Civic journalism taught us that people accept information when they own some of it. And they own it, not when it’s spoon-fed, but when they help gather it, discuss it, examine trade-offs and envision solutions. J-Lab’s goal is to empower people to be global and civic players by pioneering interactive ways to participate in news and information.”
This terminology echoes some sentiment from last week’s NDN conference, where several participants referred to our presentation on Participatory Journalism as a version of civic journalism. Considering the way that Pew has defined it, it seems as though we’ve been talking about a new method of civic journalism all along.
The difference between civic journalism and what we’ve been describing is that much of the participation occuring online is happening outside the spectrum of mainstream media. The partnership that Pew describes (between media host and audience) hasn’t developed. What’s happening online is bottom-up, starting and sometimes ending with the audience. Media organizations are lurking the periphery.
Meanwhile, there is an excellent study on the new Pew site, Measuring Civic Journalism’s Progress: A Report Across a Decade of Activity (PDF version, 211 kb). Some interesting key findings about civic journalism:
1. Explanatory stories: “96 percent of the civic journalism projects used an “explanatory” story frame to cover public issues instead of a more traditional “conflict” frame, which often reports two opposing viewpoints.”
2. Proliferation of perspectives: “About 85 percent of the projects provided space for citizen perspectives. “The findings in this category are among the most unequivocal and important in our research,” the study noted. “Civic journalism clearly extended the reach of journalism, incorporating new voices of citizens that simply would not have been otherwise heard.”
(ref E-Media Tidbits)