A 5% solution—more thoughts

For years now, I’ve been talking about how/whether Worcester’s amateur online writers can produce 5% of the city’s news. Why 5%? It’s inspired by this Clay Shirky talk:

The problem is that the thing that’s going away, newspapers account for 85 percent of, by the figure Professor Jones has in Losing the News — which is the vast bulk of this iron core of news is produced by one class of entity. And anybody who thinks about large-scale system design recognizes that is effectively a single point of failure problem. And if anything bad happens to the institutional model of this 85-percent producer of this thing we care about, the whole system is suddenly at risk. And that’s effectively the issue we’ve got.

So we don’t need another different kind of institution that does 85 percent of accountability journalism. We need a class of institutions or models, whether they’re endowments or crowdsourced or what have you — we need a model that produces five percent of accountability journalism. And we need to get that right 17 times in a row.

One obvious question is: how do know when you’re at 5%? I did a couple case studies on the Real Worcester blog, and since that site’s moribund I thought I’d copy them here, both to preserve them and as a starting point for my own thinking.

Worcester online journalism case study #1

by Mike – November 24, 2008 10:02pm



Here are the Worcester stories from the November 24, 2008 print edition of the Telegram & Gazette:

The question is: are Worcester’s blogs and other websites providing anywhere close to this amount of news, features, and photography?

I’ll poke around and see what’s appeared in the past 24 hours or so, and update this post when I see how things stack up. Feel free to e-mail me or contribute a comment if you find something of interest.

The T&G count: 2 features, 1 standalone photo, 1 photo feature (group of pix), 3 news stories (one of them very short), 1 obit, local sports scores, 1 sports article, sports blurbs, business blurbs, 1 review of a performance.

Online news either posted on Nov 24, or relating directly to T&G content (2 in list, compared with 3 in T&G):

Online features/reviews either posted on Nov 24, or relating directly to T&G content (3 in list, plus 1 review, compared to 2/1 in T&G):

Worcester Magazine blogged quite a bit of news today.

I’ve removed the T&G green churches article and this blog post about taking the train because after poking around for a couple minutes I was reminded that many of the surrounding towns have a lot of blogging activity, and the results of this project will be muddy and anecdotal enough without bringing all the other towns into this.

Worcester online journalism case study #2

by Mike – December 4, 2008 6:51pm



There’s considerably more Worcester news in the Telegram & Gazette for December 4, 2008, than the last time I took a look.

Once again, let’s see how much non-print-ad-supported Worcester news we can find.

In the T&G, I count 9 news stories, including very short ones, and 3 features. (I’m going to ignore sports, obits, and business news for this case study, as I’m not interested in these, and thus have no idea where to look online for local info on these subjects. I suspect it is out there somewhere.)

We can also compare the T&G with the free weekly Worcester Magazine out today, which had 4-13 news stories (there are a couple of columns with multiple items) and 7 local features (including a photo feature). Additionally, today they had 2 blog posts. Interesting to note the distance between our daily paper and our free weekly–not as far apart as I’d assumed.

I’ll be updating these lists over the next 24 hours.

Online news:

* ACLUM Urges City to Act on Rights of Photographers

* T&G site architecture for nerds: I actually thought this was interesting.

Online features:

* A conversation about the Worcester Slave Narratives: Video of a recent talk, via Indymedia and WCCA. 90 minutes, including general discussion of local black history.

* Worcester Food Not Bombs Wants to Grow: Compare with the T&G’s front page feature on a Salvation Army project.

A nice Worcester photo:

Franklin Street


FYI, the Telegram & Gazette Worcester news and features:

* A1 (news): DCU Center upgrades sought

* A1 (news): Six honored: Memorial unveiled at new firehouse

* A1 (news): State to sell forsaken treasures, trivia

* A1 (feature): Salvation Army has castle of toys

* B1 (news): Young mother ‘doesn’t seem like a villain’

* B1 (news): Census challenge adds to count

* B1 (news): Teen charged in death moved to adult prison

* B2 (news): Worcester man charged with robbery

* B3 (news): Attack at store stirs outrage

* B5 (news): Bat attack suspect is held without bail

* E1 (feature): stART your holiday shopping Sunday at Union Station

* E1 (feature): Student ‘apprentices’ join Worcester Chorus for ‘Messiah’ performance

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