Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Mainline Media News

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 ( and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (

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,, 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., 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, 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, 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’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.

State Rep Paul Drucker Exits Harrisburg . . . Thank you for your service!

What was the voter’s message in November? Does this signal an acceptance, or rejection, of either party? Does this message play similarly in Pennsylvania . . . and in the local 157th district?

With “the economy, the economy, the economy,” being chanted by people across the country, many were engaged in the political system during this voting season . . . some for the first time. We have now elected and re-elected many different types of people across our country. The impact of our choices is already being felt. Democracy needs the relentless participation of its citizens to be most effective. With the electorate’s intense anger reverberating across the country, the anti-Washington, anti-establishment sentiment rejected many incumbents in November, including State Representative Paul Drucker.

It does seem like our political problems should have clear solutions but often times do not. Consider how hard it must be for someone to get their name on a primary ballot, win that primary, and then win a general election. People holding any political offices are effective achievers who have support of family and friends but also have convinced a large group of strangers to believe in them. Paul Drucker was that person in 2008 and in November, voters of the 157th district chose differently. Were the election results reflective of Drucker’s job performance in Harrisburg? No, I think the vote spoke more to the intensity of the anti-Washington sentiment. A personal defeat for Drucker when the votes were counted, his loss was not a statement to his personal accomplishments in Harrisburg.

Although I am a proponent of looking forward, I believe that there is merit to reflecting on one’s past. Much can be learned from life’s experiences and this week, Alan Thomas for the Mainline Suburban Life interviewed Drucker. The article, ‘Drucker reflects on work done and work not finished in House term’ is an exit interview . . . an ‘introspective’ of sorts. (Click here for full article).

Much like his re-election campaign platform, Drucker points to his list of most important concerns in the 157th district as jobs, education and transportation and sees the issues as inter-connected. Drucker strongly supports fixing the state’s infrastructure and getting people to work. He views the Paoli Transportation Center plan as a project to spur economic growth and as a means to create new jobs in the community. With a new Republican Governor-elect Corbett at the helm in Harrisburg, Drucker voiced concern for the Paoli rail yard project. With sign-off on the project required by Corbett, the future of this transportation center remains in peril.

When Thomas asked Drucker what changed during his two years in the House, his reply was, “Well, it’s changed me, I made a lot of new friends, new contacts. I certainly have a good perspective on state government. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. I’m going to stay active and involved in what’s important to me. I’m still recharging my batteries. It’s a 24-7 job. I have never worked so hard in my life.”

For the long hours and reduced pay that many candidates receive when elected, we need to stop and thank those that have served. I thank Paul Drucker for serving as State Representative of the 157th district. And I thank him for his commitment to important issues and for caring about the residents of our community.

Deteriorating bridge, parking safety concerns, liability issues . . . Why spend taxpayer money on open space and not maintain?

Back on November 15, the Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors agenda included awarding the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge repair contract. (The lowest qualified bidder was Bill Anskis, Inc. in the amount of $84,655.50.) This bridge repair has been on the Township capital projects list for a long time and had finally found its way to the top. The Swedesford Road Open Space property is located directly across the road from my house, so I am acutely aware of its usage and its associated parking issues for anyone attempting to use this Township open space.

I spoke at the November 15 supervisors meeting to explain the Swedesford Road Open Space usage, particularly during spring and summer trout fishing season. Swedesford Road is a highly traveled road and I assumed that once the liability issues to the township were understood, this project would move forward. In fact, in the township’s five-year plan, improvements to the Swedesford Road Open Space project specifically state, “bridge and parking lot safety improvements”. Additionally, the necessary repairs needed for the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge and parking improvements is included in the implementation of the latest Township Comprehensive Plan. Rather than approving the Public Works project, the supervisors voted to pass it to the Parks Board for further discussion.

The Parks Board met last week and the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge project was on their agenda for discussion. It is my understanding that the Parks Board voted unanimously not to support the bridge repair and parking safety project. I simply do not understand. Either the members of the Parks Board did not visit the Swedesford Road site (and see the deteriorating bridge and existing parking liability issues) or they are choosing to follow the lead of some of the supervisors. But it does surprise me that members of the Parks Board would not support the needed repairs and maintenance of one of the parks they are appointed to protect. As an appointed member of the township’s HARB (Historical Architectural Review Board), I liken their decision to . . . me not supporting the historic buildings in the township. I guess I do not understand the Parks Board motivation.

If the township (1) supports open space through purchase of property and (2) advertises the use of the open space and parks, then (3) doesn’t the township have a responsibility to maintain the property so that it is accessible and safe for the residents to use?

Back in 2006, there was a firestorm of debate over the purchase of the Swedesford Road property (and its price tag). The purchase price for the 5.7 acres of open space was $825,000. However, a Chester County grant paid for more than half the cost. The Swedesford Road Open Space ordinance in 2006 stated the property was to be “utilized perpetually for park, recreational and natural-resources conservation purposes.” Many in the community thought that the price was too high for this property but that debate is long gone . . . the taxpayers own the property and it should be accessible for use.

It is also important to note that the Swedesford Road Open Space project is a capital expense and not included in the township’s operating budget. The project is funded through bond and grants money and would not affect the supervisor’s passing of the 2011 budget.

In reviewing the agenda for the upcoming Board of Supervisor meeting on Monday, the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge repair and parking improvements is listed. With the reinforcement of the Parks Board member’s unanimous vote not to move the repair project forward, it is doubtful that the supervisors will approve this Public Works project.

I do hope that the supervisors recognize that there is a liability issue for the township by choosing not to repair the bridge or improve the parking situation. Residents see the township’s sign ‘Swedesford Road Open Space’ and attempt to pull off the road on to the open space property. With no room to turnaround, drivers are often forced to back out on to Swedesford Road . . . a risky proposition!

If the supervisors are not going to repair the bridge and improve the parking, I suggest that the township remove signage and close the area of Swedesford Road Open Space to discourage visitors. However, before taking down the Swedesford Road Open Space sign and closing the area to public use, perhaps the township supervisors should notify Senator Andy Dinniman and Commissioner Carol Aichele. Chester County dollars through a grant were used to fund this open space purchase and their names appear on the sign!


Additional notes:

Following the November 15 Board of Supervisors meeting, an article, ‘Tredyffrin has its own bridge to nowhere’ appeared in the Mainline Media News newspaper – here is a link.

For those that are unfamiliar, I have included some photos of the Swedesford Road Open Space property – the bridge and the parking area. In the last few weeks, there has been a traffic accident at the Swedesford Road Open Space where the guard rail has become dislodged.

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,

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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