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On Visions and Hybrid Journalism

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As you read in this column two weeks ago, we have a new editor, Tom Abate, who has been busy getting to know Humboldt County all over again. Tom was in Blue Lake last week, Fortuna over the weekend and we both spoke at the Rotary Club of Eureka on Monday.

At a Journal staff meeting this week I told them that this is a good time to remind ourselves and our readers of the fact that while our strategy from year to year may change, our vision - our core mission - does not change.

In 1990 this was our Mission Statement:

"To provide the Humboldt County community with an independent voice as an alternative to the daily media. To provide independently owned businesses with an affordable print advertising alternative."

In 2002 we added, "It is our intent that our coverage be factual, accurate and fair - and when possible, in depth and investigative - in order to facilitate positive change in the community."

This past year we've had a few meetings on the Mission Statement and asked ourselves, it this still valid, do we need to update it? For instance, it doesn't acknowledge that we have grown into a media company. We now publish a group of useful magazines, like the new Do It Green Guide. The Journal calendar on-line has become an incredibly important asset to this community, linking multiple complex databases. Like other websites, the Journal has a blog that is now capable of posting videos originating from cell phones.

Two weeks ago I used the term "hybrid" journalism in my column and Tom repeated it in his. We were promptly mocked - mocked! - by anonymous bloggers and even on these very pages by Journal cartoonist Joel Mielke. (Good cartoon, Joel.)

I went straight to Google, hoping I was not misusing the term.

Nope. "Open collaboration over the Internet among reporters, editors and large groups of users" and "a blend of grass-roots reporting and professional analysis." The obvious example of hybrid journalism is the collaboration between Wikileaks - the website that posted massive amounts of classified diplomatic cables last year - and the New York Times and other news organizations that did the hard lifting to analyze what this all means.

What would this collaboration of citizen-reporters and professional journalists look like in Humboldt County? We don't know yet, but how about expanding the Journal website to create and link communities - communities based on location or common interests or other parameters?

We traveled to a web conference two weeks ago in San Francisco sponsored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. We came away with a better understanding of how these new technologies can be used to grow our website and to explore its connectivity to the weekly print edition. We are excited to try some new things.

As always, we appreciate feedback from Journal readers.

A postscript: Joel Mielke's cartoon this week may need some explanation. Although we had hoped Hank Sims would lend his programming talents to our web hybrid vision, he resigned Friday. We sincerely regret his loss to the Journal family and to our readers.

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