Our Product: Trustworthy News and Information that Stir Civic Engagement

Banyan-affiliated co-ops will be grass roots community institutions whose mission is to fulfill their communities’ news and information needs in ways that inspire and empower civic engagement.  Their approach to the news will start with these basics:

  • Day-to-day coverage of institutions and community happenings ranging from city council meetings to school sports to business, plus features that reveal the community’s many facets and, in the time-honored tradition of community journalism, celebrate the lives of its people. Stories will range from the deeply serious to the light-hearted.
  • Enterprise reporting projects, at least one per quarter, that dig deep into community issues that readers deem important. Reporters who lead the projects will tap community wisdom through crowdsourcing as well apply standard reporting techniques.
  • Life-issue reporting, items that help everyday people deal with the life issues that press on them and their loved ones.
  • A local resource bank offering a wealth of links to reliable community resources that people can tap to make their lives better, including by helping one another, as well as a comprehensive calendar of community events.

Details of Banyan’s news coverage vision are here.  And its vision for building civic health is here.  Banyan’s robust civic engagement tools set it apart from standard news sites.

In an unsettled time when the word journalism has lost value and fixed meaning, Banyan has developed its own practical definition: the reliable information that people need to make their best life and citizenship decisions, and a bold value proposition: People will experience the co-ops’ journalism as relevant to their lives, respectful of them as people, and worthy of their trust.

The co-ops will offer the news not only through their websites but also in a daily e-mail blast of headlines and lively Facebook and Twitter feeds. The publishing platform Banyan will provide to affiliated news co-ops is designed to deliver journalism that is primarily text, supplemented with still images, graphics, video and audio. The devotion to text rests on Banyan’s commitment to strengthening democracy, because of text’s power to engage reason.

A bare-bones community news co-op will likely have two full-time professional employees: 1) an executive director whose job description is a publisher/community organizer hybrid, and 2) an editor, who will personally cover major institutions including the city council, but devote most of her or his effort to overseeing freelance reporters and others who will contribute content, ensuring that the site consistently delivers on its value proposition. In addition, the staff will include a half-time administrator who will handle customer service and act as office manager.

Other writers may include experienced freelancers, interns from a local college, neighborhood correspondents, and sports stringers, all paid from a robust freelance budget. To fulfill their mission as community institutions, affiliated co-ops may also engage high-school students, perhaps to gather information for the community calendar of events.


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The Banyan Project is a nonprofit organization founded from the thinking of 31 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.

Read more about Banyan Project.

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