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Grand Rapids Citizen Journalism Site Soon Launching

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 08:57 AM EDT

rapidian logoMy blog has been quiet of late, much due to the fact that I have been immersed in work related to the pending launch of The Rapidian, a new citizen journalism project in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A project of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (with support from the GR Community Foundation and the Knight Foundation), it is an ambitious endeavor and we are just 20 days from launch. It combines a web based journalism structure with neighborhood news bureaus. Ultimately, we hope it can help stem the tide of decreasing local news reporting that is happening all over the country, much to the detriment of our communities.

We also recognize that for a project like this to gain wide support and use, it must balance openness and accessibility with expectations of civility and trusted content. Today I have been working on the statement of values for The Rapidian and I thought I would share. These are not “the rules”, but rather a stated basis for decision-making and the establishment of some common agreements. Here is the work in progress, so far. I would would be interested in feedback.

The Rapidian Statement of Values (a draft)

The Rapidian is a citizen journalism project created to increase the flow of local news and information in the Grand Rapids community and its neighborhoods.

Through tools, training, platforms and support, The Rapidian seeks to create meaningful dialogue and promote greater civic engagement. The following values are central to these goals and it is in the spirit of these principles that we encourage wide and robust use of the Rapidian by the community.

1. Inclusiveness: It is a core belief of The Rapidian that including many diverse voices will ultimately strengthen the community. We understand that within our community there are many points of view and and differing news priorities. We value and encourage such diversity over style of reporting, issues of seniority or story subject.

2. Civility: We believe in robust debate and spirited conversation. We also believe that meaningful conversation is best enabled through civil debate and respectful exchange of ideas. Content submitted to the Rapidian (including comments) is expected to reflect this value. Personal attacks, slanderous material, hate speech or unsubstantiated accusations will be flagged and removed.

3. Ethical Reporting: We value basic tenets of journalistic ethics and will continually strive to establish, support and encourage ethical reporting. Standards for Rapidian reporters include: Seek truth; be honest and fair; minimize harm; do not misrepresent; seek alternate sources and points of view; do not use reporting for personal gain.

4. Original Works/Proper Attribution: We value and honor those who create and distribute meaningful content and set attribution standards accordingly. Plagiarism, failure to provide proper credit or unauthorized derivative works are not acceptable.

5. Open Identity (no anonymous posting): In pursuit of meaningful exchange and dissemination of valuable information, we believe we must each take responsibility for our words. Anonymous stories and comments do not support this value and will not be accepted.

6. Cooperative Distribution: All content posted on the Rapidian will be licensed under one of two possible Creative Commons licenses. This means that complete works may be redistributed and posted to other places, subject to the rules of these licenses (link here). At the reporter’s option, some content may be restricted from commercial re-distribution. We use the Creative Commons licenses in the spirit of wide distribution and sharing of local information, a key value of this project.

The Rapidian is an experiment intended to demonstrate that as community, we can use the concepts and structures of citizen journalism to share information, empower new voices and increase meaningful interaction between all of us who call ourselves “Rapidian”.