The Knight Foundation offers for the fourth time grants for local journalism projects that develop open-source software that can be useful for other communities. This News Challenge is a wonderful innovation booster. And I have gathered old and new colleagues to submit a very exciting project!
These are the highlights. Your feedback will be welcome, as we will be refining it in the coming weeks! You may write your comments here or, even better, in the News Challenge application page!
PARTICIPA: Reconnecting journalists and citizens to foster community consensus
PARTICIPA wants to rethink citizen journalism in order to promote a more active citizenry that engages in social debate in search for community consensus, and to help journalism regain its status as a profession that truly serves its community. The core rationale is to take the burden off citizens, defining new roles for more involved journalists and using open-source software to make participation easier and more effective, purposeful and consensus-oriented.
An online participation management platform (PARTICIPA, based on custom developments to the Liferay open-source CMS) will allow defining clear phases and aims for the community debates to facilitate participation, and will organize offline and online contributions into coherent collections to ease decision-making.
We will test the project at Serrallo, the fishermen neighborhood of Tarragona (in Catalonia, Spain). This neighborhood combines an aging community that sees the old business fading away, and newcomers from Northern-Africa and Latin-America that face multiple challenges in a new culture. The project will foster dialogue to find common goals and solutions, and at the same time will promote digital literacy with public workshops. Video messages recorded by journalists will be often used for citizens’ contributions, to lower the barriers for participation.
Citizen journalism and web 2.0 initiatives have empowered local communities, but they often lack an effective management, which diminishes their social impact. Professional online media usually treat audience participation as a playground rather than regarding users as citizen. Our project wants to revisit and update the tradition of public journalism to improve the social impact of participation. We will use online software to transform random participation into clear and easy step-by-step phases that, with the aid of journalists, guide citizens into effective collective debate that fosters consensus. This will also rebuild the trust between citizens and journalists, a necessary step in strengthening the democratic role of media.
The project will involve several organizations, mainly:
Tarragona21.cat is a local online-only news site serving the local communities of Tarragona. They would report on the process and outcome of the participation project, that will become a new way for them to connect to their audiences far beyond the usual features (comments on news, citizen-produced stories).