We launched a new kind of blog today. It's called ChicagoNow Labs.
Hopefully it will serve as an incubator of ideas for ChicagoNow and as a platform for journalism students across Chicagoland.
Here's what I wrote about the blog on its about page:
ChicagoNow Labs is a platform for area student journalists to learn
about, discuss and experiment with online community management.
journalism industry is radically changing and student journalists can
no longer count on landing positions as reporters right out of school.
A position they might take instead is that of the community manager of
a news website.
ChicagoNow is overseen by a team of community
managers. Their job is to grow a local and authentic online community
on ChicagoNow. The managers do that in a variety of ways and wear many
hats themselves including writer, curator, designer, tech geek,
marketer, social media strategist and customer service representative.
community managers never edit the bloggers' or users' work. Instead,
they help them cover the city and connect to other Chicagoans who share
On ChicagoNow Labs, student journalists will
learn how to become community managers by growing and managing
neighborhood blogs. In time, the students will hand over those
neighborhood blogs to the residents to manage.
To start, ChicagoNow Labs will be used by a journalism class I am teaching at DePaul this winter. The course is a brand-new one titled "Managing Digital Communities."
As I type this entry, I'm sitting in a Mac lab at DePaul's College of Communications, surrounded by 24 undergraduate and graduate journalism students. We just heard from Bill Adee, ChicagoNow's "blog scout" and Chicago Tribune's VP for Digital Operations and Development.
Bill talked to the students about ChicagoNow and his hopes for it in the months ahead--specifically figuring out how to launch a blog in every neighborhood of Chicago by the end of the year.
"Nobody's figured out how to cover a city so locally yet, but we hope to and we hope that you can help us figure it out," he said.
The class at DePaul is an experimental one. You can follow along with our progress on ChicagoNow Labs and are encouraged to weigh in with advice and ideas via the comments section. You can also learn more about the class is designed by reading the syllabus.
In time, I hope to bring other journalism departments on board via ChicagoNow Labs. We're already working with Columbia College to launch AustinNow thanks to a generous grant they received from the Chicago Community Trust.
As ChicagoNow grows and evolves this year, we will need all the innovated thinkers we can find. I'm looking forward to what the students on ChicagoNow Labs come up with.