Tom Murray

Citizen Journalists Can Make a Difference . . . Community Matters Keeping Company With CNN & Reuters News!

Who could have predicted that I would see my words and Community Matters quoted in a citizen journalist article . . . and keeping company with the likes of Reuters News  and CNN!  Yes, in “Citizen Journalists End 2010 With a Bang”, writer Susan Cormier refers to me as a blogger receiving notice from professional journalists as credible and worthy of adding to news sites.  (see article below).  To say that I am honored and flattered to be included in the article would be an understatement!

I feel that sometimes we all can become engulfed in the mainstream media, whether the outlet is MSNBC, CNN, FOX, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer or our local newspaper.  We all have the ability, and the right, to state our opinion.  Citizen journalism allows for people to connect with one another regarding issues or opinions they have, . . . regardless if those involved are in agreement or not.  Citizen journalism is important and sometimes I think it’s underestimated. 

Tom Murray including Community Matters on the front page of Mainline Media News validated the value and place that it serves in mainstream media.  Susan Comier’s article salutes citizen journalists and credits those more traditional news outlets (like Mainline Media News) with appreciating and understanding the value of citizen journalists in today’s world.

Susan C. Cormier is from Denver, Colorado and has more than 28 years of experience in the media arts, including stints as a broadcast writer, legislative bureau chief, city editor and now citizen journalist. Susan is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists”  (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

Thank you Susan for including Community Matters in your article – and here’s to making 2011, the ‘Year of the Citizen Journalist’!

Citizen Journalists End 2010 With a Bang

Exciting developments and investments involving citizen journalists were announced during the last couple of months of 2010.

Here are just some of the news items:

1) Thomson Reuters announced Dec. 14 that it will partner with citizen journalism site, Examiner.com, and other U.S. content providers as part of the company’s multimillion-dollar investment to help meet the needs of U.S. newsrooms. In a Dec. 14 press release, the news agency said its goal is to increase its domestic news offering, and to offer publishers and broadcasters the tools they need to increase efficiency, reduce cost and drive revenue. Examiner.com, whose 65,000 citizen contributors – or examiners – generate thousands of articles daily with “fresh, original and locally relevant content,” is just one of the entities involved in the Reuters America project, according to the press release. Other outlets distributing content through Reuters include The Wrap News, SportsDirect Inc., The Sports Xchange, US PRESSWIRE and SB Nation.

2) Yahoo announced on Nov. 15 that it was launching a contributor network to add the “voice of the people.” In its press release, Yahoo! said it “is inviting people to contribute to many of its most popular sites with the launch of the Yahoo! Contributor Network, a new platform for people to publish their creative content on Yahoo! The Yahoo! Contributor Network . . . will bring contributions from more than 400,000 writers, photographers, and videographers to the Internet’s largest media destinations. . . . ”

3) On Dec. 15, it was announced that blogging community network Global Voices and citizen journalism wire Demotix will begin sharing text and images.

On the Demotix blog, CEO Turi Munthe said: “We share a profound commitment to the ‘crowd’ and its power, and a profound commitment to opening the news conversation. Global Voices run the best network of global bloggers anywhere – to combine their work with our images has always made sense.”

4) CNN, which first began accepting citizen reports in 2006, celebrated citizens’ involvement with a video released Dec. 16 that showcases 194 iReports from 194 countries.

While these are some of the larger stories that have appeared in recent months, there also a couple of smaller stories that are worth noting as well.

Gannett is adding to its investment in TucsonCitizen.com, a community journalism site created when the Arizona newspaper closed down in May 2009. The site was designed to satisfy Justice Department requirements regarding Gannett’s Joint Operating Agreement with Lee Enterprises, publisher of Tucson’s other daily, the Arizona Daily Star.

With the persistent and very capable leadership of site editor Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com now has 65 citizen contributors and has nearly doubled its page views from the same time last year to almost 1 million a month.

Evans said he no longer fears that he will come to work one day and learn that the site will be closed down.

Just the opposite appears to be happening. With Gannett funding, Evans was able to hire Anthony Gimino as a full-time employee beginning Jan. 3 to oversee the TucsonCitizen.com’s growing sports blogging network and to assist in the overall administration of the community website. Also in January, a part-time social media editor will be hired to help with the site’s social media efforts and to grow the site’s audience.

In Pennsylvania, Pattye Benson is among the bloggers being noticed by professional journalists as credible and worthy of adding to their news sites. Benson, who has been writing her blog, Community Matters, for a year, announced Dec. 17 that she could now be found on the newspaper website of Mainline Media News.

Benson notes on her blog: “There have been a few naysayers who have questioned if my blog was mainstream journalism. Tom Murray’s offer for Community Matters to ‘live in the space’ of the newspaper validates this citizen journalist and hopefully now quiets those critics.”

There may be many more smaller stories like these last two, but I just don’t know about them. All-in-all, I’d say the outlook is pretty bright for citizen journalists and bloggers. I can’t wait to see what 2011 brings.

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Blogs are Becoming Mainstream Media . . . Community Matters Now on Mainline Media News!

The question is no longer, whether blogs can be journalism. I think there is no question that blogs are now mainstream media and that citizen bloggers ‘are’ journalists.  And we are now seeing mainstream media coming in the other direction by more traditional media outlets adding blog content.  Blog sites are now touching tens of millions of people in the United States and the numbers of blog readers are projected to continue growing.

I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my blog, Community Matters.  Passing this marker, I found myself reflecting over the last 12 months.  Who could have forecasted that I would write 580 articles (and on a myriad of topics) or predicted that Community Matters readers would leave 7,800 comments as a result of my posts? 

In addition to the blog’s recent anniversary, another milestone has been realized for Community Matters.  I was approached by Tom Murray, editor for the Mainline Media News, about the possibility of adding my community blog to his newspaper’s online site.  Although intrigued by the offer, I had some reservations.  Would I maintain complete control over Community Matters . . . the blog’s contents and its comments?  Flattered by Tom’s interest in Community Matters, it was important that my writing and reader’s comments be protected and not compromised, edited or filtered.  Tom assured me that not only would I remain in control of Community Matters (Community Matters is password protected) but that when readers visited the newspaper online and clicked on Community Matters, the traffic would go directly to my site.  As a result, I am excited to announce that Community Matters can now also be found on the home page of Mainline Media News, http://mainlinemedianews.com/

Will citizen journalists garner respect in the mainstream journalism world?  I guess it is like anything, it will depend on the quality of the writing of the specific blogger and the standard of their blog. There has been a battle the last few years, bloggers vs. journalists. I don’t think that the rise of blogs equals the death of professional journalism. The media world is not a zero-sum game. Increasingly, in fact, the Internet is turning it into a symbiotic ecosystem — in which the different parts feed off one another and the whole thing grows.  That’s how I view the relationship of Community Matters with the local newspaper.  There is no reason a community blog cannot successfully exist independently but also keep company on the home page of Mainline Media News.  Hoping to increase traffic to Community Matters with this new venture, I view the opportunity as a win-win for me and for the newspaper.

There have been a few naysayers who have questioned if my blog was mainstream journalism.  Tom Murray’s offer for Community Matters to ‘live in the space’ of the newspaper validates this citizen journalist and hopefully now quiets those critics.

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Newspaper Editor Offers His Opinion on our Supervisors, stating ". . . Tredyffrin Township residents deserve better and we will make sure we hold the board accountable for their actions."

When do you suppose was the last time the editor of our local newspaper weighed in on the actions of our local elected officials?  I cannot remember it happening in any recent times, that is until today. In today’s edition of Main Line Suburban Life, Executive Editor Tom Murray offers strong words in his Editor’s Corner for supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter and their St. Davids Golf Club decision.  Tom’s words, ” . . . trust was lost when four of the supervisors made that fateful vote a few weeks back” are understood and echoed by many in this township. (Tom’s full column is below.)

Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter probably thought that their St. Davids decision to return the country club’s escrow would be forgotten by this point, swept under the carpet by their apology and that we (the public) would have just moved on.  Just the contrary, . . .  far from forgotten, I think we all agree with Tom Murray’s assessment, we do deserve better in Tredyffrin Township.

For the record, there has been no response from Chairman Lamina concerning my email request this morning to add St. Davids Golf Club to the Agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Guess he doesn’t need to respond to me; I will just wait and see if St. Davids is on the Agenda tomorrow.

As an aside, I wonder if the stalling on the St. Davids matter is related to Warren Kampf’s upcoming weekend event – the Chester County Republican Committee have their formal endorsement process in West Chester this Saturday (my understanding is the committee vote will help determine Mr. Kampf’s political future).

      Bad decision in Tredyffrin

Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

By Tom Murray

Three weeks ago I guess you could say I hit a wall.

After 62 consecutive weeks of writing this weekly column – all 54 in Main Line Suburban Life and eight before that for Main Line Life, I felt I needed a break. We had some very strong letters to the editor and I felt it was more important to hear from the readers.

Two weeks ago the new boss of our parent company started and there were meetings and discussions about our Web site, videos to watch and podcasts to listen to, and bull sessions with my bosses and staff. Another batch of strong letters and guest columns made my decision not to write again easier.

Then last week came the snownami, which according to the Urban Dictionary I found online is defined as “when it is snowing so damn much you can’t even see a thing.” Yes, Mother Nature sure had the last laugh last week when she followed up her 28-inch snowfall with 17 inches more and winds that left many Main Liners in the dark.

A decision was made to push up deadlines so another week passed without this column. I received a few phone calls and plenty of e-mails from loyal readers asking if everything was OK and a few were concerned about my employment status. I assured them that I would make sure that I would let them know when that time comes. I want to thank all those readers who checked in. So with the batteries recharged, I feel it’s important to touch on one issue that I missed the past few weeks.

Up the line in beautiful Tredyffrin Township, the Board of Supervisors voted a few weeks ago that sidewalks weren’t needed at St. Davids Golf Club and they voted to release money from an escrow account that ended the longtime controversy.

While the debate over sidewalks has been around long before I arrived on the Main Line, it was the way the board went about its business that has me concerned.

I took it personally because it was my decision not to attend the meeting when the four commissioners pulled a quick one. Each week I sit down with reporter Blair Meadowcroft and we discuss what needs to be covered. There was a big Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board meeting that same night and the school budget for the year was being discussed. Blair and I looked at the agenda for the Board of Supervisors that night and we made the decision that since there was nothing earth-shattering to be discussed, she should attend the school-board meeting and see where the board would cut millions of dollars in programs.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that week’s newspaper.

I started getting calls and e-mails that night from upset residents letting me know what the supervisors did, and that was bring up the St. Davids issue, debate it for a short time and then vote to give the golf club back the money it originally had to put up. Board Chair Bob Lamina has since apologized to residents for the board’s actions. It was a good first step but I don’t blame residents for still being upset.

Board members need to realize that it’s no longer the 1950s and they can’t get away with this kind of behavior anymore. I had given the board the benefit of the doubt a few times since January’s reorganization meeting, but now it’s personal. That trust was lost when four of the supervisors made that fateful vote a few weeks back.

Tredyffrin Township residents deserve better and we will make sure we hold the board accountable for their actions.

That’s our job.

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