Community management in journalism and beyond…

I read an interesting tweet today from Thomas Knoll, @thomasknoll, who describes himself as a community architect. He was speaking at a conference in America and at the same encouraging his audience (as well as the wider web) to use the hash tag #octribe engage in discussion on Twitter during his speech “Community management doesn’t work. What does?”
He wrote:

“We cannot manage a communities [sic] attention, attitude, involvement, tone, or culture. We CAN architect spaces and design experiences #octribe.”

The web belongs to the millions of individuals on this spinning ball of dirt – with each person comes different interests, desires, beliefs and movements. We can’t expect to control this but we can design and maintain websites, forums, social networking sites etc. to best serve the needs of the community and its common purpose and to aid the growth of the community.

In journalism the best example newspapers acting as community architects is the The Daily Telegraph’s award winning My Telegraph, which enables its 64,602 members to set up their own blogs and comment on other’s. Anyone and everyone is free to write any topic they want to, as long as it is not in breach of the law.

This was tested in 2008 when BNP London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook published the incendiary post ‘Blame the immigrants’ using the reader’s blogging website. The Telegraph’s communities editor Kate Day (now its social media and engagement editor as of January 2011) allowed its publication attracting the interests of other media.

Indeed, newspaper does not act as a moderator and will only take action its individuals complain about posts or comments. Barnbrook’s post, which was taken down following complaints, can be found here.

Day says that the Telegraph’s policy actually strengthens the community who can exercise some power and also feel more recognised and respected. Indeed the space and design provided by the Telegraph has proved popular and has even provided breaking news.

Instead of traditional hands-on management My Telegraph seems to happy in creating an environment where its readers can flourish – when and should other news websites follow?

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