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Rolling up Media Makers into Local News Networks

The Seattle Times this week announced it has added five more local news partners to the network it launched in 2009 with J-Lab support. That brings its network of local news and blogger sites to 39.

The new members in Seattle include the network’s first ethnic media partners, “something we’re really excited about,” said Bob Payne, the project’s manager and director of communities. They include the Northwest Asian Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, Public Data Ferret, Rosiehood: The Roosevelt Neighborhood Blog and the Seattle Bike Blog.

So far, the 20 sites in the Seattle suburbs are not part of the network. Soon, in a new twist, interns from the University of Washington will be available to report stories for the partners, building their journalism capacity and further building upon existing media assets.

Seattle’s is not the largest blog network in the county. But unlike some other blog alliances, its initial partners are mostly focused on news rather than opinions. The Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow network lists 286 blogs that cover everything from sports, to art to parenting. Likewise, had assembled a network of 224 bloggers in its first six months before its recent morphing into a niche arts and entertainment site. Chicago’s Windy Citizen highlights content from 44 bloggers.

The Seattle network is one of nine around the country being fostered by J-Lab’s Networked Journalism project, funded by the Knight Foundation. The Lawrence Journal-World recently joined as a late added starter and has hit the ground running. The second year initiatives are starting to gel in interesting and diverse ways.

In Portland, Ore., Cornelius Swart, former publisher of the Portland Sentinel and founder of the Portland Media Lab, has been hired by The Oregonian to juice its network and he brings a refreshing indie media perspective to his new task.

“The folks here are well aware of the paper’s old reputation as ‘The Death Star’ and that some independents may be wary of working with them,” Swart said in a blog post this week. He’s optimistic, however, that the paper aspires to have journalists and bloggers working “in a peer-to-peer fashion to bring the most important local news to the widest possible audience.”

“As many of us know, being a successful online voice, whether you are in social media or traditional blogosphere, is as much about referring people to quality content as it is about producing quality content yourself. It’s all part of being a trusted source for your readers.”

J-Lab is compiling a report on the work, to date, of the Net-J sites. Stay tuned for more.

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