Lessons from Charlotte’s Web

In all the recent talk about news organizations’ “original sin,” this Steve Yelvington quote stands out: “Cox threw away much of what it had learned.”

Let’s not do it again.

The “original sin” meme going around is about “What did traditional news organizations do wrong?”

It’s often asked in a quest by those organizations to find a business model for the sharing of information.

I’d broaden the question, to how and why our society lost the concept of community information as a public good, instead of a private privilege, controlled and siloed by private industry.

Once upon a time in Charlotte, a news organization nurtured a small effort that grew into a big nonprofit project, Charlotte’s Web, funded by government grants, to connect community and share information.

Read some historical links at Innovate This to see how politics and funding affected the organization as it grew.

The history has pertinent lessons for nonprofits encouraging such information and community building online, as well as the journalists and other people associated with those projects.

And then send a good thought for Steve Snow, may he rest in peace. He was a community builder and information sharer, and remembering and learning from his efforts is important as we go forward.


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