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“Collaborative citizen journalism sites play a vital role” in the 21st century media landscape, says Phil Bronstein, executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Like everything else, it could become competitive to what we’re doing. But, if we’re smart about it, it will be complimentary.”

New media, in other words, won’t displace traditional media. It will just play a role in transforming the process. That’s a view held by everyone contacted for this story.

“I think it’s more complementary now than competitive,” says Gillmor via email. “We can do different things. We can’t fully compete with some of what a big-city newspaper does best. But when a brigade of citizen journalists decides to tackle an issue, I’m betting they’ll do a good job.”

Notable community leader Craig Newmark, the founder of the uber-community network Craigslist, is eyeing the space, speaking with everyone from Gillmor to Paul Grabowicz, new media program director at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Bronstein, to figure out how to match his community success with his interest in collaborative journalism.

“What I see happening is community journalism will post news that the mainstream news hasn’t covered,” Newmark says. “But I don’t know at this point. It’s all a moving target. It looks like my biggest draw might be making noise and pointing people to good stuff.”

The CCJ sites are still very young and everyone is trying to figure out ways to differentiate themselves and partner. But whoever aligns with Craigslist would get a tremendous boost in visibility and influence and may get a decided advantage in the effort.

Craigslist started as a San Francisco-only service that quickly grew a devoted following and extended its ethos to 120 cities and communities around the world. The site now reportedly takes in around $10 million per year in revenues. Piggy-backing a community-oriented news service on Craigslist’s mighty community is a pretty compelling thought, something it seemed Newmark was at least interested in exploring. No one contacted for the article would discuss any partnerships, but Gillmor and Newmark have been talking.

“Our conversations have been mostly about the potential of this emergent medium and movement,” he says, adding, “Anyone who could partner with Craigslist, which is probably the preeminent example of how an organic community can form and grow, would be crazy not to do it.”

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