Monday, April 13, 2009

Washington Times to feature daily page of stories by citizens on communities not being covered

The thing that I like about The Washington Times' project of giving space to citizen journalists to provide more news is that it admits to not properly covering the communities of these readers.

Other newspaper editors try and lie their way through spins of the truth that you're actually getting more through all their niche publications. You're not. And you know that.

You want your communities, their successes and problems covered just like everyone else's in the main newspaper. But the staffs there have been cut so savagely for the bottom line that such a guarantee is not possible.

So The Times' effort is most worthy of watching, particularly since it is based on a truth most newspaper editors will not acknowledge.

The Times reports:

The Washington Times' news gathering is about to become a whole lot bigger as the newspaper launches one full print page per day of news stories reported and written by average citizens in local communities.

The citizen journalism project, set to debut Monday, is a new take on a traditional idea.

Community-driven news has been a long mainstay in American newspapers. The Times' version ramps up the intensity and the outreach, focusing on six communities within the larger Washington area: academia on Monday, the Maryland and Virginia suburbs on Tuesday, the District on Wednesday, local military bases on Thursday, faith communities on Friday and the charitable and the public service community on Sunday.

The citizen journalists' work will be showcased in the A-section as an additional page of Metro coverage and will provide a natural complement to the work of the newspaper's reporters and editors.

"We know there are many issues and communities we have not been able to fully cover within the confines of a newsroom budget, and we are excited to empower citizens within those communities to provide us news that will interest all our readers, " Executive Editor John Solomon said.

"While we are expanding our reach through this project, we will not be diminishing our editorial quality. Citizen stories must meet the same rigorous standards for accuracy, precision, fairness, balance and ethics as those written by our newsroom staff," Mr. Solomon said.

Each citizen journalist is provided a set of rules for their reporting and newswriting, as well as copies of The Times' policies governing ethics, anonymous sources and other journalistic standards.

While the project calls for some first-rate news wranglers, The Times also is tapping into some of its own editorial talent known for its savvy - and heart.

Former Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons, a veteran newswoman with close ties to the local community, is supervising the coverage for the District, the suburbs, academia, faith and the charitable communities. Longtime Times columnist Adrienne Washington, a staple on local TV and radio, also will be a part of the outreach and the editing.

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