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Current and wannabe community news site founders are invited to a special community news networking social on Thursday, Oct. 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – right before the Online News Association conference's opening reception. We’ll gather on the second floor of the National Public Radio headquarters, 635 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. The event in sponsored by J-Lab, the Reynolds Journalism Institute and NPR. For more information and to register for FREE, visit [J-Lab’s event page].

Comparing LONCs to early radio days?

Notes by Bill Densmore

A bold group of entrepreneurs, intent on serving their communities, and aiming to make a decent living doing so, embrace a new technology. They begin meeting together to share best practices. And gradually they learn how to make it work as a vital public service -- and business -- growing to become a vital part of the U.S. media ecosystem.

It was post-World War II America. They were America's pioneering owners of small-market, community radio stations. Today, the operators of America's local online news communities (LONCs) are again pioneering with new technologies that serve the public and make a business.

On Oct. 28, just as the Online News Association meeting begins in Washington, D.C., some of them will meet for two hours to network informally and perhaps discuss some key questions:

  • What are our greatest entrepreneurial fears?
  • How have we measured success, so far?
  • What are our biggest challenges?
  • How do we share the work of building a new public service?

”A Community News Caucus"

If you own or manage a local online news community -- profit or non-profit -- and you're ready to help answer those questions . please join the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), J-Lab, the Institute for New Media and National Public Radio -- from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (hors d'oeuvres, refreshments and networking from 5 p.m.) on Oct. 28 at NPR headquarters, 635 Massachusetts Ave., NW for:

For close to a decade, J-Lab,, the Media Giraffe Project, Journalism that Matters and others have been watching and advising LONC pioneers in all their diversity. As their impact grows, titans like America Online, Google and Yahoo are eyeing their business and their promise.

Reinventing the values, principles, purposes and practice of journalism?

A quiet revolution is underway. A reinvention of community. New ways to practice the values, principles and purposes of journalism. Slowly, but surely, more and more people are getting their news and information not from ink on paper, or from broadcasts, but from the web . . . from their social network or their phone app, or the web or mobile app produced by a legacy news organization in their home or professional community.

As quietly, and as surely, entrepreneurs are stepping in where voids exist to innovate and grow local online news communities. First it was here and there, a few experiments in a few places, each with rather different approaches. The innovation continues, but some axioms are becoming clear. The stories are told and they start to gel. Ways to make the work easier, better, deeper and more useful to the public, to businesses . . . day by day, year by year.

Day by day, week by week . . . block by block . . . these new entrepreneurs, new pamphleteers, new community organizers are raising their hands and saying, “I want to do this for my community. I want to report, convene, explore, connect.”

The Knight Foundation, RJI and others sponsored "Block by Block: The Community News Summit," in October in Chicago, where more than 50 LONC operators. Advertising, sustainability and networking emerged as key concerns. "A Community News Caucus," answers the need to keep the dialog going -- just as 900 online news professionals gather a block away in downtown Washington.

Time to affiliate?=

Is it time for America's local online news pioneers to affiliate?

Welcome to the Community News Caucus at ONA-Washington. For just over two hours . a chance to pose questions and share some answers. Is it time for something to bring us together. Maybe not an organization, yet, or a group, but perhaps a caucus? What will be the essential purpose? What are the opportunities for collaboration, syndication, networking or the forming an interest group for U.S.-based local online news communities?

A caucus might provide knowledge sharing through:

  • Clearing house for advertising collaboration
  • Advocacy to spotlight and legitimize the public-service role of LONCs
  • Better visibility for efforts that support local online news innovation
  • Representation on First Amendment and net-neutrality policies
  • Help desk services delivered on demand to caucus members
  • Coordination for business and ethics, technology and legal training

An organization? With members? Or not

Who could manage a caucus? Would it be a membership organization? With dues? Who could be a member? Should it start off as an interest group within an existing organization such as the Online News Association or the Society of Professional Journalists. Could it be hosted by ONA, or J-Lab, or the Reynolds Journalism Institute?

Should a group do lobbying on net neutrality and other issues as a 501(c)4?

What are the needs?

  • Organize an ad/sponsor network
  • Take advantage of ONA.s .parachute training. at various locations around the country.
  • What are the tools you need to do this? What.s open source?
  • What are the business rules to think about:
  • Legal services
  • Libel insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Ethics issues

Lots to talk about! See you Oct. 28 at NPR.

-- bill Densmore