Ex-Sacramento Press chief shares lessons in community journalism

By Melanie Turner, Sacramento Business Journal, November 21, 2011

Longtime Sacramento journalist David Watts Barton asserts in an article published this week in the Columbia Journalism Review that without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.
“My first national byline. Hard to believe. I hope you think it was worth the wait!” Barton wrote on Facebook.
Barton, a regular guest host of Insight on Capital Public Radio and a Bloomberg correspondent, also is another casualty of the struggling journalism industry. In September, Barton was laid off from his job as editor-in-chief for online newspaper Sacramento Press.
In the article, Barton shares his observations working at the hybrid online paper, which uses both unpaid amateur writers and professional paid journalists.
“What I Saw at the Hyperlocal Revolution,” was published Thursday in the Columbia Journalism Review.
While relying heavily on unpaid community contributors, Sacramento Press, under Barton, hired a few professional journalists to give readers a reason to return to the site.
Barton talks about how the journalists “lit a fire under the local news media, focusing on stories that The Bee, the local alternative weekly, and the Sacramento Business Journal either didn’t notice, ignored, or couldn’t afford to cover.”
Long hours and fast writers helped, along with free work from interns and community contributors, he wrote. Still, he said, often the community contributions were weak.
“Despite today’s proliferation of sites that are open to anyone, not everyone is a journalist, let alone a good one,” he wrote.
Ultimately, Barton concludes that much of the article, “which was intended to be about journalism, is instead about money.”
“But this much is much is still clear, whether for new media or old: Editing costs money. … Without the money, we don’t have jobs. And “citizen journalism” notwithstanding, without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.”

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