By Steve Outing
Travis Henry, editor of Colorado YourHub.com, probably won’t be inviting me out for a beer after work anytime soon. He got pissed off a couple years ago about some stuff I wrote in the early days of “citizen journalism” regarding YourHub. Now he’s back critizing me again after I mentioned YourHub in my latest Editor & Publisher Online column.
What I said in my column is that I think “citizen” or “grassroots” community news websites don’t work well as destination sites, because overall the experience of quality is lacking with grassroots content; ergo, don’t rely too heavily on it without applying good editing and/or combining it with “professional” content. With so much competition from quality content sources on the web, I don’t think a site with a preponderance of average content will make it. That doesn’t mean I think that grassroots media is dead or dying; in fact, I suggested otherwise.
My primary recommendations to those who continue to experiment in the space are to:
- Bring professional content and grassroots content together, so that for a destination site, the overall quality experience is enough to attract and keep a significant audience.
- Do a better job of pulling out and leveraging the very best of grassroots content, and positioning it alongside professional content.
- Figure out how to disseminate the hyperlocal citizen content (the stuff that’s boring to the vast majority of a site’s audience) to just the people who really care about it and for whom it’s important information. That means looking beyond just the core destination site and also focusing on widgets, social networks, map mashups, etc., where targeting is possible.
- Utilize the grassroots contributors in joint projects with professional journalists — aka, crowdsourcing.
I expressed my opinions, based on my experience, and Henry is of course free to disagree. And perhaps he’ll prove me wrong if YourHub becomes a significant destination site for local news and information with the model it’s got.
Part of Henry’s ire, I think, is based on the writings of other media bloggers and critics who followed up on my E&P column. Some of those people twisted what I was saying in order to suggest that the Backfence and Enthusiast Group failures prove “citizen journalism is dead.” I said the opposite, but suggested that some tweaking is in order to turn it into a business.
So I feel unfairly spat upon by Henry’s churlish posting on YourHub. Nowhere did I say that either citizen journalism or YourHub are dead. Let’s set the record straight on that.