Community Building Journalism

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Peter Miller

How do activists, would-be activists, and those interested in learning about and participating in any movement or community of practice get a sense of what the best practices are, what the underlying philosophies are, who the leadership is and what they're thinking, what the key institutions and organizations are and how they're developing, what the most useful resources and tools are, and what's going on in other communities? How do people learn how to participate with a critical and reflective perspective?


The journalistic pattern and communication tools noted here can be used in any field, narrow or wide, where public education and outreach as well as discussion and information sharing among key contributors and other participants are important to the vitality and development of the field.


There are many ways of speaking to this family of problems/issues/concerns: face-to-face get-togethers, from conversations to conferences; email/discussion lists, blogs, web sites and bulletin boards; books and articles; faxes and radio—are all useful approaches. Tying into all of these, regular publications have come to serve a key role in movement-development and community-building. Tom Paine's Common Sense at the beginning of the American Revolution, arousing the colonists in a radically new "common sense" way, and The Federalist Papers, the country's first major newspaper op-ed series, designed to convince people to support the newly drawn up Constitution—these crucial works of popular journalism that helped set our country's founding are indicative of what can be found in any social and political movement, large or small, specialized or general. Regular publications that cover the events and developments of a movement are indicative of the depth of thought and commitment that people have to their work and their interest in sharing it and learning from one another. Movement/community-building journalism and their publications are most often written and produced by the actors and participants in the movement and provide reflections on the roots and meanings of specific contributions to the field; they tie particular events and achievements, programs, institutions, and actors to a wider field of interconnected activities that together point toward renewed possibilities for people creating a healthier and more democratic common world. Consider professional academic disciplines, how they all have their many journals (international, national, regional) and their growing on-line availability and distribution, and their importance to developing cohesion and direction in their respective communities of practice. Consider the situation among artists, social workers, leftists, conservatives, citizens of any size viable community. In American political life, consider the longevity of key political journals and how they have not only reflected trends and movements but helped define the movements themselves and provided an arena for its participants to learn about and from one another—that strand of radical liberalism that has characterized The Nation from its inception as a vocal anti-slavery voice, the descent from progressive liberalism to neoconservatism represented by The New Republic, the development and fracturing of the radical political culture and politics of eastern European Jewish immigrants as found in The Partisan Review, Dissent, and Commentary.

In the field of community media and technology, the Community Technology Review ( reflects several useful pattern features of current community-building journalism:

• CTR has served as the formal and informal publication of both the Community Technology Centers' Network,, the country's oldest and largest association of nonprofit and community organizations dedicated to providing emerging technology resources for those who don't ordinarily have effective access, and of the Association for Community Networking (, the affiliation of institutions and individuals interested in developing community-wide information resources and tools. CTR has covered key directions and issues of its two prime organizational partners by placing them within the developments of the wider field of community media and technology. Thus, for example, the fall 1999 issue was a joint production of CTCNet, AFCN, and the Alliance for Community Media (ACM,, the national association of community cable public, education, and governmental (PEG) access centers; ACM and community cable access center development receive on-going coverage. CTR has maintained close relations with the Community Media Review, ACM's official publication; with the fairly-recently established Journal of Community Informatics (, the international journal of what is emerging as the emerging academic discipline of the field, especially outside the United States; with the Digital Divide Network, the online communication environment (at that has done so much to address issues involving the problem identified in its name; and with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (, the association of nonprofit technology assistance providers, and has offered ongoing coverage of NTEN, Circuit Riders, CompuMentor/TechSoup and other organizations/developments in this part of the field. To the degree it is a model, CTR suggests that coverage of key organizations in a field provide a useful map that can be of assistance to both the experienced actor and the new participant looking for information and guidance.

• CTR is published simultaneously on-line and in hard copy, using state-of-the-art tools most appropriate to each environment. The developing on-line environment has been designed with open source publishing tools (Movable Type/Drupal) that provide a large number of embedded hyperlinks for readers to easily explore special areas and references in depth, extensive searching capacity throughout the archives (, interactive options for reader comments/additions and communication with authors and editors. Desktop publishing is tied to appropriate printer and print-on demand options for hard copy production and distribution, providing a tangible publication for those readers and occasions where hard copy availability is especially appropriate and useful. With the growing number of links to community-produced audios and videos, CTR provides an integrated multi-media platform that models a variety of approaches that can be used.

• Articles are written by a combination of recognized leaders in the field and first-time authors who have worked on innovative projects and new resources. With first-time authors, editorial staff have expended substantial time in providing writing and editorial assistance. Overall, the tone and approach towards the reader is one that assumes an interest and some familiarity with the field but one that seeks to provide explanations and meanings when technical or field "jargon" or acronyms are used; in general the CTR seeks to welcome the reader into an on-going conversation among some of the major practitioners and leaders in the field (hence the inclusion and important role of photos of authors and individuals who are participants in the events covered). In contrast to so-called "objective" or "neutral" journalism and reportage, movement building journalism engages both the producers and readers in a way that builds and strengthens their communities.


Develop journalism and communication venues that present news, events, and developments in a field in-depth, covering key organizations and institutions to offer a map and guide, using the most appropriate communication tools for participant leaders and actors. For those interested in using hard copy or on-line tools for community-building in a field that does not currently make use of them, discuss the situation with your colleagues and compatriots and find an associated field where such tools are used. Those who have developed them will almost always provide useful advice and even volunteer assistance.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How do activists and those interested in movements or communities of practice get a sense of best practices, underlying philosophies, strategies, leadership, key institutions and organizations, useful resources and tools, and current work? Developing journalism and communication venues that present in-depth news, events, and developments in a field is essential. And covering key organizations and institutions can help offer a map and guide.

Pattern status: 
Information about introductory graphic: 
Peter Miller