Site turns readers to writers

An online journalism class at MU is launching a Web-based publication called MyMissourian.
Friday, October 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Many topics go unreported in the media, and others are repeatedly covered from the same standpoints.

Today, in an attempt to broaden the scope of local news coverage, an online journalism class at MU will launch a Web-based publication called MyMissourian. The project is MU’s first audience-driven publication, allowing people who registerwith the Web site to submit their own content, which students will edit for publication.

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor of the journalism school, said MyMissourian will reflect the diversification of the news media.

“MyMissourian allows many different groups of people in the Columbia area to publish news and information aimed at small groups of people,” said Bentley. Curt Wohleber, the Columbia Missourian’s online editor, joins Bentley in teaching the class.

Brian Hamman, a graduate student serving as one of MyMissourian’s politics editors, is eager to see what content the site will receive.

“My favorite stories to write are about people who are passionate about some niche interests that rarely get much attention,” Hamman said. “This site could let local experts and storytellers open up and tell their stories.”

Bentley said media trends show a growing demand for more specialized and localized content. While the number of metropolitan daily newspapers has declined, the number and variety of community newspapers, magazines and television channels have increased dramatically.

One explanation for the popularity of community publications, Bentley said, is that they report on overlooked topics that spur the interest of communities. This is one of the things he hopes to accomplish with MyMissourian.

Another explanation is that people unsatisfied with traditional media coverage have begun gathering and exchanging information, assuming the roles of reporters themselves, Bentley said. This practice of citizens reporting the news has been deemed open-source journalism.

Graduate student Jeremy Littau, an editor of MyMissourian’s schools section, said open-source publications can give professional journalists a look into the public’s interests.

“What I love is that this thing is wide open, that we are defining the news in the public’s image and serving as moderators for a public forum,” Littau said. “I think as journalists we have a rare chance to see the public’s news judgment in action, to see what they believe is and isn’t news based on what they submit.”

Bentley said that as an open-source journalism project, MyMissourian will also encourage readers to respond to each other’s opinions.

“We don’t presume to have the staff and expertise to make sure every opinion is informed,” he said. “We can, however, make sure that the presenters of those opinions are identified and that others in the community have ample opportunity to refute or support those opinions.”

Bentley emphasized the site an experiment.

“A new form of journalism has appeared on the civic horizon,” he said. “We are testing it in a realistic environment at the same time we are training our students to react to the changing needs of the public.”

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