Citizen Journalism Takes Jacksonville by Storm
The people's news - of the people, by the people, for the people. Call it what you will - street journalism is the "new black" of information in the digital age. Also known as citizen journalism, and typically disseminated in an online format, it is mobile, real time, and pays mind to you. Florida-based news site Metrojacksonville.com is proof of that.
Five years ago five guys had an idea. There wasn't a public news forum in Jacksonville that focused on the city's urban core. And importantly, there was no outlet to voice opinions on pressing issues facing the structure and function of the city. Enter Metrojacksonville.com. The news outlet is now a respected resource for all things new urbanism.
What's even more impressive, is that Metrojacksonville.com remains a side project. Most of the group members still hold day jobs, yet find time to run the site - and run it well. Ennis Davis, architect and civic activist; Daniel Herbin, CSX rail tech guru; Stephen Dare, cultural brainchild; Steve Congro, software innovator; and Bob Mann, old transportation soul, joined recently by a marketing head and a savvy intern, work to cover issues stretching from Jacksonville's center to the beachside.
The website is a cohesive assembly of discussion boards, news articles, and press releases covering all manner of happenings in Jacksonville. Content runs the gamut from profiles of local organizations and the latest on dining and nightlife to pieces that look specifically at what Jacksonville might learn from other cities. A new article is posted each weekday while the forum rolls continuously.
But what really makes it work, is, in essence, that the site generates itself. It doesn't spit crime rhymes - the voluntary public post the grapevine news. It doesn't sing the weather - people can look outside. It is a controversial, free-for-all opinion pot that welcomes vocal views. But it also reports objectively. It is reinventing what a local news source is - what it can be and what it can do. The importance of community discussion among a diverse public with a common home is unmatched. With 3,000 members, they invite everyone to sign-up for free and start talking.
The Metrojacksonville crew has played a role in remapping a new convention center, and their ideas are heard by city power players, elbow to elbow at the dining table. They are a part of Mayor Alvin Brown's transportation and downtown committees. They offer affordable fixes for downtown, identify vibrancy killers, and tote a utopian orb in the palms of their hands. The vision is to improve the vitality and quality of life in downtown through creative, innovative, attainable, and sustainable solutions.
And beyond the news reel, Metrojacksonville also hosts monthly pub crawls and puts on special events downtown, shuttling patrons via trolley to expose and promote local businesses.
The accumulation of common desires among a group of urban core planners to make innovative revitalization concepts a reality - to transform Jacksonville - is what ambition looks like.