Community management in journalism and beyond…

Power to the people

The latest assignment for my Journalism and Society module (as part of my newspaper journalism masters) posed an important question: Does widespread access to different forms of media enhance democracy in media?

I started to think about this blog, and whether having so many online communities, and so many different ways in which communities can be form (blogs, Facebook, forums etc) be anything but a good thing.

Voices are being heard, that sometimes may have remained silent. Movements are being created across the web by the strokes on a keypad. And to the people themselves, it seems to matter greatly having a platform to be heard.

When Martin King, the Independent’s online editor, decided to start moderating comments more actively, one commentator voiced their appreciation of being able to express themselves. John Bell wrote:

“I started commenting when the MPs’ expenses scandal first broke! The Independent(plus The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail and a number of ‘foreign’ online newspaper sites) gave me an opportunity to make my feelings, as an individual taxpaying citizen, known when ALL the ‘official’ consultation processes were concerned only with stifling discussion by the man in the street.”

However King’s decision was not made easily:

“It has been hard to excuse the excesses in some of independent.co.uk’s comments. In trying to bring the immediacy of post-moderation, some posters’ closed minds and wilful neglect of commonsense (let alone decency) meant all too often that we ended up shutting articles to comments.”

Clearly a balance between allowing freedom of expression and maintaining respect and intelligent discussion is needed. But what I find amazing is how newspaper are transitioning from what used to be a strictly one-way street operation to genuine exchange between readers and journalists, and how beneficial this could be for readers.

What do you all think?

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