Half-year mark for RepJ Project


The Representative Journalism Project is nearing its five-month anniversary and my collaborators and I could not thank the people of Northfield enough for all the support they have offered so far.

We’re hoping those supporters might chime in now and let us know what parts of the project seem to be working and what parts still need refinement.

One change I am determined to make this week is in how I introduce stories, document their development and finally present them to readers. I would like to gather more input from a wider spectrum of people, and do more to show them my reporting and writing process, before I produce a finished piece of work.

Now, when I put up a part of a story to introduce a topic, I would like to see readers help me put together the next part of that story for the following day, and so on until finally, I write a feature-length article that one might see in a magazine or newspaper.

In the evolution phase of story development, I want to be more informal about presenting the information I update day-to-day. I want people to know more about how and when I got the information, and what thoughts ran through my head as I received it.

I hope the increased transparency and opportunity for public participation will improve the quality of my stories and distinguish Representative Journalism as a truly different and valuable way for a community to learn about itself.

Please answer the questions below to help us know how we’re doing. If you prefer, email your responses to RepJNorthfield@gmail.com. Thank you!

  • What parts of the Representative Journalism Project do you value? What parts don’t work?
  • How can we further refine the project into something Northfield citizens value more?
  • How could Representative Journalism support itself financially in a community?


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Journalism.co.uk has a RepJ story/interview this week: ‘News operations will have to join the niche movement rather than fight it’ says Representative Journalism founder

    Q: You’re testing Rep J out first in Minnesota – why is this important and how did you choose the testing ground?

    Leonard Witt: Griff Wigley started a blog there called LocallyGrownNorthfield.org. He has been into online community building since the mid 1990s. He along, with Ross Currier and Tracy Davis, post [content] and then lots of people in the community jump into the conversation. They had a nice little online community. They wanted a journalist to dig and report, so we provided them Bonnie Obremski, a fellow/journalist, who we are underwriting as part of the experiment.

    We are learning a lot: at first her tone was very newspaperish, now it has become more conversational. It’s still strong, ethically sound journalism, but not so one-to-many; it is more many-to-many, as if she were part of a conversation. In the long run, we would like the community to find enough value in what she does to support her – that’s part two of this trial project.

    December 27, 2008
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    BusinessWeek has a RepJ story this week: Online Journalism: Donations Accepted.

    Rather than sponsoring a story, what if you allowed readers to sponsor a reporter? In July, the rural town of Northfield, Minn., “hired” Bonnie Obremski to cover local topics like crime, education, and events on an existing blog called Locally Grown. Obremski’s assignment is the pilot phase for a program being developed by Leonard Witt, a professor of communication at Kennesaw State University, just outside of Atlanta. Currently, Obremski’s salary and expenses are paid for entirely by a grant from The Harnisch Foundation, but in coming months, Witt plans to raise enough local support from Northfield residents to pass the entire cost on to them. A community of 1,000 potential contributors, he says, each paying between $1 and $2 per week, would be sufficient. People in the community understand that eventually they’ll be asked to ante up.

    Obremski is confident the experiment will work, judging by the way she’s gotten her readers involved in her reporting. “I invite my readers to participate in all parts of the story-making process online,” she says. “Readers understand that I’m engaged with them in a two-way conversation. They see how I get my information and how I process it.”

    December 27, 2008

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