In January 2010, I wrote about how The New York Times was turning editorial control of one of their blogs, The Local: Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, to a graduate class at City University of New York.
Initially, I felt The Times was just trying to find a way to get free labor to work on a product they felt helped the company come across as being as much of a local news provider as a international news source.
To me it felt The Times was taking advantage of the students by outsourcing the work in order to increase the profitability of the blog. I stand by that.
Now they are doing it again, except this time The Times is partnering with New York University.
This project is going to be different, though. Instead of taking over an existing product, the students, lead by NYU professor media maven Jay Rosen, are going to create the site from the ground up. It will be a local blog that covers New York’s East Village neighborhood. It is going to be called The Local: East Village, or LEV for short.
This will be an exciting project, especially since they get to create everything that will go into the site (the look, the content, the coverage topics, the multimedia aspects, the publishing cycle, et cetera, et cetera).
Of course, the CUNY project would be cool too, but I feel both of these projects are taking advantage of eager journalism students. It seems as though The Times is just looking for cheap labor, which it is getting. Sure, it will be good experience for the students that could foster contacts within The Times that could prove beneficial when said student graduates, but until then, it just feels slimy even though it sounds pretty cool at the same time.
I guess my major gripe with these types of partnerships is that if the students are good enough to do the work, why don’t they get paid for it in a monetary way instead of just the class credit they will receive for taking part in the class?
I just hope the student will get a lot out of it. I wish them luck and will be watching the blogs to see how it unfolds. I just hope they realize that they don’t have to work with The Times to do this type of local journalism. Small towns across the country do it every day.