Starting a "LONC" get's easier -- as resources emerge for legal, software help

During Journalism That Matters gatherings organized with the help of the Media Giraffe Project, entrepreneurs starting local online news communities (LONCs) often cite three fears in getting started:

  • How do I sell advertising?
  • How do I set up a website?
  • How do I keep from getting sued?

Resources are emerging to meet all of those needs. The latest was announced Nov. 19. The Online Media Legal Network , a network of law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel and individual lawyers throughout the United States willing to provide legal assistance to online journalism ventures -- for free. Services available include help with business formation and governance, copyright licensing and fair use, employment and free-lancer agreements, access to government information, pre-publication review of content and representation in litigation.

The home base for the service is the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, which is closely affiliated with Harvard Law School. It is there that David Ardia (pictured, right, photo by Doc Searls) -- a former in-house attorney for The Washington Post -- runs the Citizen Media Law Project.

"So far the response from lawyers and law firms has been very enthusiastic," Ardia said in an email to the Media Giraffe Project. "The Knight Foundation provided the initial funding for the network, so the first corpus of clients has been Knight grantees.  Now that we've gotten them into the network, I was thinking we could offer our services to some of the folks you work with at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Media Giraffe.  This would be a strictly no-obligation, no-charge affair. As we've done done with the Knight grantees, you and/or we would simply reach out to them,explain what we are doing, and offer to help with their legal needs."

CONTACT: David Ardia / Director / Citizen Media Law Project / Berkman Center for Internet & Society / Online Media Law Network:    http://www.omln.org/
Meanwhile, another Journalism That Matters event alumna, Michelle Ferrier,  (pictured, left, photo by Bill Densmore) has developed background briefings on four common technology platforms available for buildling somewhat "out of the box" LONCs. The four are offered by VillageSoup.com, NeighborLogs.com, Wordpress and CommunityQ. Ferrier worked several years for the Daytona Beach, Fla., daily, where she launched and ran the MyTopiaCafe news and social-network community. She now teaches college-level journalism in North Carolina.

Here's a link to her overall analysis of the four platforms. As well as JPEG images of her arguments FOR and AGAINST each.  
But here Ferrier explains that after receiving some 40 comments on her initial analysis, she's continuing to think about her recommendations:
"There’s Moveable Type. And Drupal. And WordPress. And Soapblox.net, which I wish I’d had more time to explore," she says.

COMMUNITYQ:
http://michelleferrier.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/communityq-a-content-management-system-with-a-social-networking-feel/

VILLAGE SOUP:
http://michelleferrier.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/village-soup-a-robust-hybrid-community-news-platform/

NEIGHBORLOGS:
http://michelleferrier.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/neighborlogs-a-blog-platform-with-a-community-feel/

And here is a link to a thread of conversation about the four platforms, and others, by those who are using them in the Journalism That Matters community.