Ben Franklin means better journalism

The most important benefit of Journal Register Co.’s Ben Franklin Project? Better journalism.

The company made history last night by sending 18 daily newspapers to press using only free, open-source, Web-based tools to produce them, and using crowdsourcing techniques to include the community and readers at every step of the process of local journalism.
Here are just some of the results of that effort (there was a lot of fun stuff, too, like an Ohio paper’s video of boxing sandwich condiments and a Michigan daily’s poll on the greatest Detroit-area sports figure of all time).
But here is just a taste of the serious, in-depth local journalism that came out of this project. Not the typical work product of small community newsrooms.
My newspaper in Torrington, Connecticut, got the entire newsroom involved in writing a package of stories about downtown revitalization.
The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J., produced an in-depth package of stories on the safety of pit bulls.
Like a number of the company’s papers, the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., used video, statistics and free online tools to track and report on how the crime rate in that city has fallen in recent years.
The Troy Record in New York crowdsourced a package of stories on how parking meters impact residents, visitors and local businesses.
The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., examined how social media is transforming the way local nonprofits raise money.
The Oneida Daily Dispatch in upstate New York took a fascinating look, using crowdsourcing and Census data, on why young people choose to move away – or stay – in the community.
After reporting year in and year out on property tax increases in local communities, the Delaware County Daily Times in Pennsylvania took a crowdsourced look at the impact they were actually having on family budgets, especially those of elderly residents.
The Reporter in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, wrote about how “job search fatigue” has set in among the area’s unemployed.
Moving beyond the police blotter and details of high-profile cases, the Daily Local News of West Chester, Pennsylvania, wrote about the impact that DUI arrests have had on local communities.
The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, took the opening of a new Walmart and turned it into a crowdsourced look at the impact of big box chain retail and suburban sprawl.
The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan, examined what classroom textbooks are really teaching our children.

About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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