Ben Franklin means better journalism

The most important benefit of Journal Register Co.’s Ben Franklin Project? Better journalism.

The company made history last night by sending 18 daily newspapers to press using only free, open-source, Web-based tools to produce them, and using crowdsourcing techniques to include the community and readers at every step of the process of local journalism.
Here are just some of the results of that effort (there was a lot of fun stuff, too, like an Ohio paper’s video of boxing sandwich condiments and a Michigan daily’s poll on the greatest Detroit-area sports figure of all time).
But here is just a taste of the serious, in-depth local journalism that came out of this project. Not the typical work product of small community newsrooms.
My newspaper in Torrington, Connecticut, got the entire newsroom involved in writing a package of stories about downtown revitalization.
The Trentonian in Trenton, N.J., produced an in-depth package of stories on the safety of pit bulls.
Like a number of the company’s papers, the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., used video, statistics and free online tools to track and report on how the crime rate in that city has fallen in recent years.
The Troy Record in New York crowdsourced a package of stories on how parking meters impact residents, visitors and local businesses.
The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., examined how social media is transforming the way local nonprofits raise money.
The Oneida Daily Dispatch in upstate New York took a fascinating look, using crowdsourcing and Census data, on why young people choose to move away – or stay – in the community.
After reporting year in and year out on property tax increases in local communities, the Delaware County Daily Times in Pennsylvania took a crowdsourced look at the impact they were actually having on family budgets, especially those of elderly residents.
The Reporter in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, wrote about how “job search fatigue” has set in among the area’s unemployed.
Moving beyond the police blotter and details of high-profile cases, the Daily Local News of West Chester, Pennsylvania, wrote about the impact that DUI arrests have had on local communities.
The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, took the opening of a new Walmart and turned it into a crowdsourced look at the impact of big box chain retail and suburban sprawl.
The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan, examined what classroom textbooks are really teaching our children.

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