Citizen journalism doesn’t always have to be about gathering photos or uploading videos. Instead, it can simply mean voicing your concerns to city officials in hopes of inspiring a change. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the majority of citizen journalists report for one reason: to shed light and bring change.
The New York City Council has developed a unique program called Council Stat. The idea behind this is for citizens of all five boroughs to be able to report issues that they are concerned about, such as potholes, consumer complaints, land use and zoning, immigration, transportation, sanitation, and much more. This program allows city council to see the problems in an easy way and to address them in an efficient manner. Citizens are able to call, e-mail, and fax their complaints and problems to city council. The information is then collected in a database and is analyzed each month. Having this collection of statistics allows council to improve their response to community needs and shows them the trends taking place in certain neighborhoods. This is a great example of how data journalism can be put to use, as well.
In a way, this might not seem like citizen journalism, but it is! Citizens are reporting on issues that matter to them and are trying to make a change. While something as simple as pothole complaints might not make the news, that doesn’t mean some of these numbers are newsworthy. If crimes rates are going up in a certain area or the number of public safety complaints are steadily increasing, then this could be something newsworthy. By sifting through this data, you may even discover a story that has not been uncovered.
The city has collected data dating back to July 2008, so this could definitely be valuable to journalists. Most of these types of systems are fairly new and are still being developed. According to The Business of Federal Technology, these tools are effective and are enhancing the communication between government and citizens. While this report only represents the federal government, I think local governments would have great success in implementing these kinds of programs.
Having a reliable website that the community can turn to to report their concerns and interact with their city officials only enhances the forms of communication. I can see why this would work in New York City, due to the large population. However, I also believe small towns could benefit from this. Not everyone has time to go to city council or county commission meetings to voice their concerns. Therefore, programs like this are valuable to journalists and the community. So what do you guys think? Would you like to see a resource like this available in your city? Do you think that it would be valuable to citizen journalists? Share your thoughts!