Pressure’s On

Mainstream Media
Over the last few years, a host of internet news outlets have proliferated as more and more readers turn to the web for their main source of up-to-date news. The success of out-of-the-mainstream news sources like Breit Bart, Drudge Report, Huffington Post, and Politico (who quickly built loyal audiences large enough to support their online operations) placed such an enormous competitive pressure on mainstream television news corporations (like ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News) that by the beginning of the last presidential election, many in the mainstream media found their previous status as the primary source for election coverage quickly slipping away.

Print news corporations have fared even less well, their readership dropping to all-time lows and many of the oldest and most respected papers contemplating either completely closing or substantially restructuring their operations (The Cleveland Plain Dealer,The Philadelphia Daily News, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Miami Herald, The Detroit News, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Sun Times, NY Daily News, The Fort Worth Star Telegram).

The resulting massive layoffs of qualified journalists equipped to cover in-depth, investigative reporting (so vitally needed at this critical juncture of our nation’s history) comes at a great cost. Citizens, are now being asked to decide the future of our healthcare system, national security policies, long-term environmental regulation policies, corporate regulation policies, the wisdom of corporate bailouts, our ability to address the growing national debt, etc.—all with a severely reduced corps of reporters to do the hard work of research and verification that citizens once depended on to help them make such vital decisions.

Citizen’s Press-ure
Recently, however, an innovative diversity of news gathering voices have begun cropping up on the web. A growing number of smaller community-based web logs and web sites (emptywheel, Elwood Indiana, myurbanreport, locallygrownnorthfield to list a few) have grabbed the attention of several foundations and organizations interested in promoting what media expert Leonard Witt calls representative journalism, including: The Harnish Family Foundation, The Center for Citizen Media, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. CJPress hopes to add support to such initiatives by serving as a clearinghouse of information for people of all stripes to begin developing the skills and resources (primarily news writing, reporting, verification, research, and journalistic ethics) they will need to most effectively begin a life as citizen journalists.

On this site, you’ll find the CJPress Handbook, a basic guide for beginning to intermediate journalists. Each chapter will cover important aspects of the journalistic field, such as covering beats, writing editorials, reviews, profiles, features, hard news, how to do research and verification, and many other topics. The sidebar will include resource links to other helpful sites for the citizen journalist and will be updated regularly to ensure availability of the most up-to-date and relevant links. I will also periodically post news and commentary under the Blog tab. We look forward to the ongoing conversation about how we can continue to use the press-ure of citizen journalism to improve the democratic power of a free and open press.