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March 07, 2006

citizen media

I'm busy reading a thick pile of applications for J-Lab's New Voices grants. These grants support "innovative community news ventures in the United States"--ranging from electronic magazines produced by identity groups, to podcasting services, to low-power radio, to public databases of value to geographical communities. The proposals are imaginative and various, just as they were last year.

One of last year's winners is particularly interesting to me. It's the Madison Commons in Madison, Wisconsin--an elaborate community news portal that combines reporting by ordinary citizens with news provided by professionals. The Commons also offers workshops to enhance citizens' journalism skills, and it has developed partnerships with two for-profit print newspapers.

The Madison Commons can be traced back to a series of discussions in the late 1990s about "community information commons." The Prince George's Information Commons also originated in those discussions, which were funded by Ford. We envisioned a network of such projects at land-grant state universities. See this white paper (PDF) for the whole plan. The Madison Commons is much more robust than our Prince George's County version, but it's nice now to have two nodes--the beginning of a network.

Posted by peterlevine at March 7, 2006 10:44 AM

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