Digital Public Square 

Banyan’s publishing platform will put a digital public square at the heart of each news co-op that uses its model, inviting conversations about issues among readers and sparking all kinds of community efforts.  This is the Banyan model’s most novel feature — and the civic engagement it generates is designed to inspire people who value their community’s civic health to enroll as paying co-op members. 

The digital public squares offer a welcoming and trustworthy environment for readers to find others who care about the same issues, learn from each other and other resources, and even organize for constructive community change; a co-op’s original reporting will nourish these conversations.  Further, the square will offer digital tools for people to invent ways to help one another — a tool library, perhaps, or a forum for swapping job leads. The possibilities are limited only by a co-op membership’s imagination.  The digital public squares help make Banyan-model news co-ops into grass-roots community institutions — not just news websites.

These spaces will also be a petri dish to grow co-op membership: Many who find value in news co-ops’ journalism will use the platform’s forums and handy tools to invite their friends to join in. The more deeply readers get engaged the likelier they are to become co-op members — a huge incentive for news co-ops to create the most welcoming, most trustworthy and easiest-to-use digital community possible.  In this time of rockbottom trust in journalism, trustworthiness is the key to inviting people to share and collaborate voluntarily with others — people withdraw their voluntary energy if they don’t trust the environment.

So to leave comments or otherwise engage in the community, readers must agree to conform to a pledge of constructive behavior, including use of real names, as people do at in-person civic gatherings. The software will include a system for flagging offensive behavior that editors can review. The goal is to ensure that readers’ full range of experiences with the sites — not just with the journalism — fit the value proposition of relevance, respect and trustworthiness.





Tell us how you can help a community news cooperative.



The Banyan Project is built on the thinking and experience of 32 senior journalists, academics, Web developers, sociologists and researchers, business and financial strategists, and advocates for strengthening democracy brought together by Tom Stites. Members of this Board of Advisors are listed below; click on names to see bios.

Stites shaped Banyan's model as a fellow of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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