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As the budgets and numbers in staff for newspapers continue to dwindle across the country, more and more communities, both rural, and those adjacent to larger municipalities find themselves lacking in local media coverage.

Many small or rural communities currently have no news source specifically directed at them. CrowdToPublic is a central location for local storytellers to get information and tools on how to start a local news website at little or no cost and to talk with other journalists and storytellers about ideas on how to build community, empower citizens and discuss difficulties in undertaking this kind of project.

While there are many hyperlocal blogs, and many resources for people who want to find out about current models for online based news start-ups, there is not a central location for citizen and professional journalists alike to find out how to build the basic start-up website. Many community newspapers use expensive services for their online content that limit their creativity and access to the ”backdoor” of the website. For many journalists and editors the idea of tackling online news by themselves is overwhelming. CrowdToPublic serves to demystify the process of building a news start up so that anyone can do it.

I have worked as a professional journalist in a traditional news room and have seen the problems that are faced by small-town journalists. There is a deep desire to build community through online arenas, but often a feeling of being overwhelmed at the idea of starting this is stronger. I have gone into communities that used to have newspapers and spoken with residents who feel that there is some disconnect in their community that they can’t put their finger on but at the same time don’t see the need for a new newspaper. I have been a part of many discussions about how to build a sustainable online news source and feel that many community members want their voice to be heard but don’t have a forum to do it. Their conversations will stay between neighbors over the back yard fence until there is a forum where they can be inspired to share.

CrowdToPublic takes journalists and other storytellers through the step-by-step process of how to build an online news space for their community. First, the creator will find a space on the web to build the site, then they get a way to manage their content. They will learn how to choose a design that fits their aesthetic, and how to host videos and photos. They will also find tools to get reader participation and feedback. The creator of the community news source will learn how to solicit stories and ideas from the individual storytellers in their area. Most simply, an established newspaper could use these tools to create pages for surrounding towns on their existing websites. A community member who sees themselves as a storyteller or who wants to network with other local key storytellers could also utilize CrowdToPublic and propose meshing their creation with a local traditional media source like regional newspaper. This would create the ideal storytelling forum that is key to encouraging civic engagement, and the Great Community.

 

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Greg March 31, 2011 at 1:35 PM

the tool that we use in the college for most of our lay-person work is Contribute.
http://www.adobe.com/products/contribute/
cost has risen over the years to about $200 for the tool.

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