Madison Commons 2.0: A Platform for Tomorrow’s Civic and Citizen Journalism

Sue Robinson, Cathy DeShano, Nakho Kim, Lewis A. Friedland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The hope inherent in democratic self-rule lies in citizens’ identity construction via communal relationships and an attachment to place. In other words, “for democracy to work, community is necessary” (Friedland, 2001, p. 358). As Internet usage has grown, citizen media projects have tried to recreate, resurrect and renegotiate community spaces online. Some form of a deliberative public sphere is often the aim of these websites, which experiment with different economic, philosophical and structural models. While most citizen media seem to succeed on some level in regards to virtual communal gatherings, questions of information credibility, significance and authority have also nagged the projects. The citizen journalism model examined in this case study tried to resolve those issues by combining participatory initiatives with traditional journalistic concepts and standards. This project developed with the aim of creating a place for communication where people’s communities could intersect with their political and economic institutions through journalism. Informed by the theory of John Dewey (1927) and Jurgen Habermas (1962/1989, 1981/1987), Lewis A. Friedland (2001) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison had developed a theory of integrated community via communicative action: by building a new online platform where all communicative networks could merge, community - and thus democracy - might thrive. In March 2006, he and a doctoral student, former CSPAN editor Chris Long, established Madison The idea was that the citizen media website would become a link between the associative public-private realms of the individual and the institutional aspects of political, economic and cultural life of the state. This chapter scrutinizes the mission of Madison Commons, its initial implementation, the challenges and successes, and, finally, its plan for progression. Specifically, this chapter catalogues how the site evolved from a clearinghouse of mostly textual information produced by citizens trained in the journalistic tradition to a Web 2.0 platform that explores community integration through interactive features. It concludes with an evaluation of how well this citizen journalism effort operates as a realistic application of the “communicatively integrated community” theory (Friedland, 2001). As of 2009, the project had succeeded minimally on all three levels of relational engagement; it enhanced, to some degree, associative, organizational and institutional relationships. For example, the site aggregated community-oriented news, parceling it by neighborhood. This ordered collection served to knit together a textual representation of contemporary Madison, WI. However, the site’s mission to empower citizens through journalistic training and selfgenerated content did not develop as hoped, and this reduced the level of individual communicative action. Realities of habit, time constraints, structural issues (such as a lack of deadlines) and technological impediments all interfered with the model’s ability to become a hub for civic engagement. Proposed initiatives for the project’s second phase, however, included an experiment in resolving many of the current challenges, and should showcase Madison Commons 2.0 as a site to build community through journalistic-grade content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPublic Journalism 2.0
Subtitle of host publicationThe Promise and Reality of a Citizen Engaged Press
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781135966096
ISBN (Print)9780415801829
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Madison Commons 2.0: A Platform for Tomorrow’s Civic and Citizen Journalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this