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Representative Journalism Funded For $51,000

Let the Representative Journalism begin, here is what I posted at the

Hello Eric Von Hippel and thank you for convincing me that “free revealing” works.Several months ago, as regular readers of the know, I started freely revealing my idea of Representative Journalism to the world. Ruth Ann Harnisch, a former TV, print and radio journalist and now president of the Harnisch Family Foundation, came across the concept right here at the, now saying:

“From the first time I heard about representative journalism and read Leonard Witt ideas in his blog, I was eager to help launch it. Len’s idea has the potential to revolutionize the practice of journalism, especially as American journalism struggles with the loss of its advertising support base.”

Also from the start, she began encouraging, no really pushing me, to stop talking about it and to take the lead in making it happen. Now thanks to her and the Harnisch Family Foundation support of $51,000 to Kennesaw State University it is a reality and we are doing the first Representative Journalism trial project with the folks at “Locally Grown,”an online community website in Northfield, Minnesota.

I chose Northfield foremost because of Griff Wigley, who I have been watching do on and offline community building, since he helped develop the Cafe Utne for the Utne Reader in the mid 1990s. He has also been my online mentor, indeed, there would have been no blog if he had not convinced me to start it back in 2003.

Here is more about the site from the “Locally Grown” press release:

Ross Currier, Tracy Davis, and Griff Wigley are the three local citizen bloggers, podcasters, and community activists who manage “Locally Grown”. They fill the web site with bits of community news, hundreds of photos, strong opinions, and quirky humor, and then engage the community in vibrant online discussions, some of which have drawn as many as 300 posted comments. The partnership with Representative Journalism allows the site to add breaking and in-depth journalism.

They thought having a professional journalist providing the community with news and information would be a perfect addition to the site and for Northfield as a whole. That’s what our Representative Journalism team of Bill Densmore, who runs the Media Giraffe project, Chis Peck, editor of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press Managing Editors, and I will help get done.

Peck has agreed to share some of his time to be the editorial traffic cop to ensure that from the beginning this project produces high quality, ethically sound journalism. However, the journalist will be funded by the community with our editorial oversight and will be embedded more in the community than in a newsroom. Words like community-assisted journalism, collaborative journalism help to describe what we are launching.

Since it is a trial we are not sure exactly how it will be configured in the end. Wigley, Currier, Davis, Densmore and I have been busy sending messages back and forth, dozens of them, as we work out a formula that will work for “Locally Grown” and meet the high journalism standards that the three of us on the Representative Journalism side live by. Densmore, a former small town newspaper publisher, will be helping us move through all the logsitical steps it takes to run this on a daily basis.

I must tell you, as someone who has spent more than 25 years in newsrooms, this collaborative effort is different. We can’t just drop in and say, “Hey this is how journalism is practiced, take it or leave it.” Even in these first days of discussions with Currier, Davis and Wigley, it is very clear that Representative Journalism will not be a one-size-fits-all operation. Each geographic or interest community will be different. Each will have its own demands, own platform and own hierarchy. Making this all work and having the journalist funded by the community will be challenge, but one that Harnisch, Peck, Densmore, Currier, Davis and Wigley and I think is worth taking.

Stay tune, this is going to get interesting.

7 Responses to “Representative Journalism Funded For $51,000”

  1. Locally Grown to be host for Representative Journalism test project - Locally Grown Says:

    [...] and Associate Professor Leonard Witt and colleagues at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. See Len’s blog post for details, as well as this press release [...]

  2. Bright Spencer Says:

    Welcome and Good Luck!

  3. DigiDave Says:

    “Free” and Future Business Models of Journalism…

    Below is a good recap of Chris Anderson’s new essay on the future of business online. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as well.I picture a micro-funding model, where content is paid by small donations from lots of people. These afford a journ…

  4. Representative Journalism - Blog - Meet the Northfield Representative Journalism Team Says:

    [...] part of yesterday with our Northfield, Minnesota collaborators at Locally Grown, where the first Representative Journalismexperiment will take place. What a great group of people they are: Griff Wigley, Tracy Davis and [...]

  5. Networked Journalism Summit » Blog Archive » Leonard Witt - Representative Journalism Says:

    [...] part of  yesterday with our Northfield, Minnesota collaborators at Locally Grown, where the first Representative Journalismexperiment will take [...]

  6. Panic {RE}_Programming » Blog Archive » Can Crowdfunding Help Save the Journalism Business? Says:

    [...] at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, came up with the idea for representative journalism and got a $51,000 grant from the Harnisch Family Foundation for the trial project in Minnesota. Witt believes that a [...]

  7. 2crocodile Says:


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About RJ

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    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at

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    Representative Journalism, a term coined by Leonard Witt, aims to build sustainable journalism one small group at a time.

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