A convener of communities…

NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. at last week’s Online News Association conference: The New York Times is “exploring becoming a convener of communities.” Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits calls that “a leap” coming from the Times, but they did buy About.com some time back, and there’s been talk of turning it into one big stable of bloggers, rather than the clumsy advertising link farm it is now. (Don’t worry, there will still be plenty of advertising.)

The context here is a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report:

American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.

Now 57% is a big, friendly number – but I think what we’re talking about here are MySpace pages, LiveJournals and the like.

So Sulzberger and friends are trying to figure out how to give teenagers a little corner of their newsworld to play in, to brand themselves, and to create their own digital repository of self and self-image.

Throw that idea up the ladder to adulthood (horizontal bonds, anyone?) and you get another speech at the ONA conference: Sandy Close said “The key role of news is its communal function, the ability for it to connect us to the larger whole — that is the connective tissue I fear we’re losing…”

Whoa. The key role of news is its communal function. I like it – not to inform, not to inspire democracy, but to create community.

[tags]journalism, online+journalism[/tags]