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Representative Journalism: A definition

Representative Journalism, a term coined by Leonard Witt, aims to build sustainable journalism one small group at a time. As mass journalism markets unbundle and become niche markets, news operations, if they are to survive, will have to join the niche movement rather than fight it. Rather than think in terms of a circulation of, let’s say, 100,000, they should think in terms of 100 niche markets of 1,000 each and form membership communities around those niches.

The centerpiece for each membership community will be the news and information tailored to each community’s needs, with a reporter and editing support devoted specifically to each community of 1,000. Online social networking, interactivity, face-to-face events will all be used to build group cohesion.

A network weaver will help to bring the groups together. The 100 individual groups can be diverse as a lawyers’ group, wanting local legally related news, to hunters to low level healthcare workers, wanting their information needs met by their own group’s Representative Journalist.

Then all these niche membership groups are aggregated under an umbrella news operation, which in turn might be aggregated further with other umbrella operations nationwide or internationally wide. Alternatively, a small town newspaper like the Anniston (Alabama) Star, a possible experimental partner, on maybe a one person operation, might add one or two reporters to it rostrum via a couple of Representative Journalism groups — or an individual might start her own local Representative Journalism community. Thinking big or small there are opportunities for everyone.

Tomorrow: How it might work in two experimental communities.

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