Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Real Journalists Read Citizen Journalists?

The talk at Mountain Xpress about "citizen journalism" makes me curious.  Are the comments sections at both the Xpress and the Citizen-Times read by reporters and editors for leads and insights?.  We all know that Xpress staffers read and sometimes respond to comments.  Do they  pick up on news tips or public trends?

The Citizen-Times, on the other hand, maintains a dignified "no response" policy.  That's probably the only stance possible, given the venting and spewing that goes on in their comments section.

But as a compulsive reader of comments, even  the vent-and-spew variety, I sometimes get a peep at something newsworthy going on that reporters appear to be missing. 

Here's a for-instance.

In the Saturday, January 30, 2010, Citizen-Times, Growth and Development reporter Mark Barrett had a story about financial problems for the Woodfin development Altura.  Down in the story he made this passing reference: "parent company Altura Global announced last year that they were establishing the N.C. Center for Foreign Investment in an attempt to bring in investment funds for Altura, Zona Lofts and another project. The center would take advantage of a process in federal law whereby investors in certain projects that create at least 10 jobs can gain permanent resident status."

An alert reader fussed at the paper for not picking up on problems at Zona Lofts: "ACT, do a standalone story on the failure of the Zona Lofts for all eyes to focus on. It was sloppy journalism on the ACT's part to bury the much beloved concept of the 'Zona Lofts' deep within another unrelated story about a not-so-beloved Woodfin development and underneath a Woodfin headline."

Other commenters offered more details: "The ugly, gaping hole on Coxe Avenue that is 'Zona Lofts' is an eyesore and a health hazard. They are obviously not going to build this project. How long are we going to have to look at this failed pseudo-green monstrosity? . . . Stand on Coxe Avenue and look at the northern 'wall' of the hole in the ground. It looks like the soil is starting to erode from under Banks Street. While I'm thinking about it I'll contact the city."

So will Mark Essig and Mark Barrett, et al., at the Citizen pay attention to one reader's Reagonesque injunction: "ACT, write the story?"

Do MountainX staffers read the Citizen-Times to see where they, with their more extended publication schedule and their space for long-form stories, can plug the sometimes gaping holes our daily leaves?

This sounds like a story for the Xpress's Margaret (Green Scene) Williams. Only last December she gave Zona Lofts a free pass: "'The Adopt-A-Street cleanups have been so much fun for our company!' says Anna DellaGuardia of Zona Lofts.  'It's a time in our day where we can shut down our laptops, stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh air and employee bonding. We chose to adopt Coxe Avenue because of the Zona Lofts project going up right next to our sales center. It is a commitment to our buyers, the city and ourselves that we will take pride in and care for our environment, and it begins right outside our front doorstep — literally.'"

Did Williams interview DellaGuardia by phone and not see the gaping hole and the soil eroding under Banks Street reported by citizen journalists at the Citizen-Times?  Does she have any obligation to follow-up with DellaGuardia?


  1. Hello??

    I commented on this post a few days back. It has not shown up yet What's up?

  2. Update on this.

    The street that was caving in? The hole has been propped up with a mishmash of lumber. I'll be sending a picture to the Streets Division.