Wendy Norris

Journalistic Background: Ms. Wendy Norris seems to have lived through four careers in one lifetime: first as a nonprofit executive and a social worker, then as a public policy blogger to fill holes left by other media, then as an editor of the Colorado Independent and finally as the founder of Western Citizen, a news site devoted to the Rocky Mountain West.

Why Print Still Lives: Norris does not hold the same view as Jones, Williams, and James with regard to print journalism. Norris believes that print journalism is vital to the current news media landscape. “Unless the digital divide is resolved, … newspapers and broadcast media still have an important role to play in news delivery” wrote Norris. “Twenty-five million Americans do not have access to high-speed broadband, just 25% have data-enabled smartphones and an even lover 5% own tablets.” This digital divide is largely between the urban and the rural, and Norris suggests that it may be more important than the cultural divide in technology use between the young and the old.

The Independent and the Citizen as Models for Digital Journalism: Despite Norris’ insistence that print journalism is here (at least for a while), her own work as a journalist has ironically been defined almost exclusively by digital communication. “Neither the Colorado Independent nor Western Citizen would exist prior to the era of accessible Internet and open source content management systems,” wrote Norris. During her time at the Independent, the entire enterprise worked out of a virtual newsroom. As a result, there was “a great deal of coordination, tact and accessibility to operate a 24/7 newsroom completely online through email, Google Docs, and G-Chat.”

For Norris, the most significant difference in the routine of working in the digital era was the disappearance of the artificial deadline that journalists have for reporting to a print publication. Since the Citizen is a news site, there is no production process and therefore no such artificial deadline. This fast reporting is accompanied by tremendous decreases in cost: “The ease, speed and low cost of producing news online enable people to receive a variety of new perspectives and near instantaneous reporting than could be delivered in a traditional news format that requires large corporate structures and millions of dollars in production and distribution costs.”

All in all, Norris’ publications stand as economic and journalistic models to pursue digital journalism in the 21st century. The tools she uses (“email, Google Docs, and G-Chat”) are within the reach of every journalist, and the benefits are tremendous in cost and immediacy. Publications like this need to be more common in small towns and regions all across America.

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