Town crier, town square, and community memory

Newspapers, which replaced the town crier with what became to be known as print journalism, are slowly awakening to a second function that's ideally performed on the Web: the town square. But there's a third role that's being overlooked, and that's the role of community memory.I've begun using that term lately in discussions of how we need to expand our journalistic processes. We need to move away from exclusive reliance on episodic storytelling and toward the creation of "living resources" that are updated whenever they need to be. I touched on this concept briefly in earlier posts about obituaries, which in many cases ought to be life stories of the living. Neither the production nor the consumption of news today is necessarily tied to a schedule. We're no longer limited by the daily print cycle or the six o'clock newscast. Most journalists see that as a "publish it now" opportunity, but miss the "maintain it forever" implications.Jeff Jarvis takes on this topic today in a declaration that "the building block of journalism is no longer the article." He continues: "I want a page, a site, a thing that is created, curated, edited, and discussed. It’s a blog that treats a topic as an ongoing and cumulative
process of learning, digging, correcting, asking, answering. It’s also a wiki that keeps a snapshot of the latest knowledge and background."As it happens, we're building this capability into the site management system we're stitching together for the various Morris newspapers, beginning with, which we expect to relaunch in November. It's a concept we hope to see used in both editorially crafted and community-driven contexts, the latter taking shape along the lines of a local Wikipedia.As in all cases, though, it's not a matter of technology but one of human behavior. Will old-dog journalists learn new tricks? Will community members contribute to a locally focused "memory?"Community memory, by the way, was the name of the world's first public computerized bulletin board system, which was operated 1972-74 by a group of hippie ur-geeks in Berkeley, Calif. I love the name.