July 18, 2011

The Nature of Communities

Back when I was a doctoral student at Iowa State University in the mid-1980s, I took a class in community sociology. One of the first issues that came up was the question of what was a community. We read about George Hillary's 1955 study that came up with 94 different definitions. As the class progressed, we never managed a unified definition of what constituted community, but we did look at a variety of approaches, including location, interest and interaction.

This same question has come up over the last week as I've been working with a group of colleagues on a definition of community journalism. I'm not sure we're any closer now with a group of community journalism scholars than that group of doctoral students was 25 years ago. But the discussion is still worthwhile.

A Nieman Report published this summer from Michael Skoler does a great job of looking over this issue, considering the importance of viewing communities as something more than just an audience with shared characteristics. He writes:

"[N]ews organizations need to think of themselves first as gathering, supporting and empowering people to be active in a community with shared values, and not primarily as creators of news that people will consume."

No comments: