Service journalism as we've known it -- useful, how-to pieces about everything from cooking to travel to spirituality -- has served us well over the years. Beginning in the 70s, it engaged readers and viewers, it enlisted new advertisers and it helped news organizations grow their revenues and stay in business. But I'm talking about a new style of service journalism, one focused not on the particular pursuits of individual consumers but on the collective needs of communities faced with diminished journalistic resources. This new face of an old genre shares some geographic attributes with community journalism, as well as some of the payoffs and pitfalls of civic journalism. At its core, though, I believe it powers an approach to story-telling that can help us map a future for news that is useful, sustainable and a lot of fun to produce and consume.
MITCHELL, BILL is a veteran journalist and teacher who retired this month as leader of Entrepreneurial and International programs at the Poynter Institute. Mitchell joined Poynter in 1999 and directed the Institute’s Web site for 10 years. He spent the Fall of 2009 as a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard, exploring emerging business models for local news in the public interest. Before joining Poynter, Mitchell worked for the new media arm of Universal Press Syndicate (editor and director of development), the San Jose Mercury News (director of electronic publishing), Time Magazine (Detroit bureau chief) and the Detroit Free Press. He started at the Free Press as a reporter in 1972 and worked as city-county bureau chief, Washington correspondent, European correspondent, city editor, and assistant managing editor for projects. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting, and served twice as a Pulitzer juror.
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