Donica Mensing – Reynolds School of Journalism

Posted on 08. Oct, 2007 by in Uncategorized

Main goal

I think journalism has tremendous potential to help communities improve their capacity to act democratically, but many current practices simply reinforce an expert-driven, elite dominated political system. How can we use Web 2.0 technologies and a public-oriented journalism to empower people to strengthen and improve their communities, rather than remain stuck in interest-group driven conflict?

Notable achievements

A group of our faculty — David Ryfe, Ed Lenert, Howard Goldbaum, Larry Dailey and myself — led by the late Cole Campbell, started a new graduate program in journalism to experiment with ways to develop a citizen-oriented, Web-enhanced journalism that helps build public knowledge. We’ve built a Web site ( and have students conducting a variety of journalistic experiments, from pledge banks to deliberative forums, participatory GIS and new designs for comment boards.


We received an honorable mention in the recent J-Lab Knight Batten awards for innovation and the graduate program work is a finalist in this year’s Online News Association competition. We received a J-Lab New Voices grant for our work this year.


Surprising realizations

Even with a big idea that everyone believes in, harnessing individual interests to serve a collective purpose doesn’t come easily. Collaboration takes a lot of hard work and humility.


Lessons learned or mistakes made

We underestimated the amount of time it would take to understand a community and make meaningful connections. We’re also learning how hard it is to develop new patterns of journalistic practice — it sets our faculty, students and our sources off-balance.


The business model used

We have an entrepreneurial class that helps students think about how to build business models for innovative journalism. No one’s made their first $1,000 yet, but we’re hopeful.


Plans for the future

To keep learning from our mistakes and to keep experimenting — and to garner enough resources to keep the project alive.


What they hope to take away from the conference

We are particularly looking for examples of networked journalism that don’t duplicate the practices of mainstream media (why teach citizens to act like professional journalists if those practices are part of what needs to be changed?) We see a lot of citizen sites that focus primarily on self-expression. We’re looking for examples of collaborative journalism that help forge new relationships between citizens, policy makers and experts.


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