Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where am I? What am I doing?

I am strangely positioned these days. Or to put it more precisely, I am in a position which seems strange to me.

I am publisher of "Homewood Nation," which I have most commonly described as a community news website.

I am chair of the Save Race Street Committee, a block association for my street, composed of residents who are bound and determined to make our street better.

I am chair of Block Watch Plus, a monthly gathering of all of Homewood's block associations, as well as individuals who are not members of block associations but who simply want to do positive things on their street, or who already are.

I am on the board of Operation Better Block Inc., which is the non-profit agency that assists residents in forming block associations and stands behind Block Watch Plus (somewhere, Block Watch Plus is described as a program of Operation Better Block).

I am co-founder of Creative Local, which has an agreement with Operation Better Block for OBB to act as our fiscal agent in receiving funds for "Hidden Gems: The Architecture of Homewood."

The Save Race Street Committee, Operation Better Block and Creative Local are all in the news, and Block Watch Plus has the strong potential to be.

Holding these positions inevitability places me at the intersection of news and PR, and raises the question of which I am doing, when. When I participate in something that I believe to be newsworthy, and I write about it, is that news or PR?

When I reach out to the media for coverage, is that...ok, no need to ask...

But if they write about it, and then I write about the fact that they wrote about it, what is that?

Finally, do my memberships in all these groups compromise my ability to write about them?

I believe that it has, but not in the way that may seem most obvious. I already did a post on Homewood Nation about this; here, I am trying to think things through a little more.

The journalistic compromise that most people might expect is a refusal/failure to report news that reflects negatively on any of the groups with which I am involved.

What I have been more strongly aware of is the refusal/failure to report even news that reflects positively on said groups, because I am not comfortable writing about stuff that I am involved with. I would rather leave myself out, and I would definitely rather not be photographed.

But my rathers are rather irrelevant. More important is that people deserve to know about some of the stuff I am doing (none of it by myself, by the way, so it's not as though when I write about it, I am merely writing about myself).

In order to become a more thorough journalist, I need to become a better blogger. That is, I need to report more fully on my own life in order to report more thoroughly on OBB, SRSC, BWP and CL. For starters.

I think I reported more fully on my own life in the early days of "My Homewood." But the more that I moved  from the "pure observer" end of the participant-observer spectrum toward the "pure participant" end, the more uncomfortable I became with describing events that involved me.

Gotta get past that. I am doing things that are important to Homewood. People deserve to know.

Having said all that, not every story or post will involve a group that I am part of, but readers should be able to know about those affiliations every time they read. So I need to list them somewhere on "Homewood Nation," and probably make some basic statement of beliefs.

When one does not even feign objectivity, transparency goes a long away - especially when joined with thoroughness and accuracy (which, again, require that I write about myself sometimes. Oh, well.).

For any journalists or citizen journalists out there - or people just committing acts of journalism, without any particular title - do you ever find yourself "strangely positioned?" What ethical challenges do you face, and how do you navigate them?
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