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Written by Emily Rau, Missouri School of Journalism (Dec., 2009)
Clyde Bentley is a self-descried guerilla journalist. His mission is to practice journalism in the most effective way. That means adapting to circumstances quickly and anticipating solutions to the changing media landscape. He says his method often requires an attitude of, "begging forgiveness instead of asking permission." He has a long industry in the business and now resides in Columbia, Missouri. He's a journalism professor and current fellow of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
The project he started about five years ago, called MyMissourian, is a product of that attitude. It's the second one of its kind and he says it was an effort to partner with the people, in order to make the media system stronger. As part of the Columbia Missourian, the project is an outlet for citizen content. Anyone can write about anything they want, and they'll see it in the paper. It all goes online, and the really good stories get in the print edition. He wanted it to be a part of the paper, not in competition with it, because he says that's the way to make the, "most converged form of journalism--newspaper--stronger."
MyMissourian doesn't ask the readers to do anything but share their stories. Bentley says they aren't citizen journalists, but their work is part of journalism. Writers follow four simple rules and they are official contributors. To his surprise, the content is rarely about politics. More often, it's about life. About pets, favorite recipes, and faith.
Bentley says the end result is one of the most read sections of the paper, but it's far from a threat to journalism. It's a reaction to the consumer needs and a compliment to the information they use to make their lives better. He says citizen journalists cannot replace traditional journalistsand they don't want to. MyMissourian and his other projects are reflections of the media industry. They illuminate the way the role of a journalist is shifting from content creator to aggregator and interpreter.
Below excerpted from "Written by the Community; Edited by Journalists" by Nathan Alderman (http://www.j-newvoices.org/index.php/site/story/written_by_the_community_edited_by_journalists/):
Clyde Bentley thinks he's found a new way for professional journalists and citizen writers to work together; a way to improve traditional media's coverage of the news, instead of replacing it.
Bentley, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, is testing that theory with MyMissourian.com, a student-run, community-powered local news site for Columbia, Mo.
Launched in October 2004 after less than two months' development, MyMissourian empowers Columbia residents to write about their own lives and concerns, guided by the news judgment of students with formal journalism training.
Bentley envisioned the site as a quick, cheaply built endeavor that could be copied easily by other interested newspapers.