I have won some money (well, funding) to do some research. This is both good (it’s always nice to win) and scary (more for the research community than anyone else.

Sandbox (see their site to get an idea of what they do as Iwould just make a hash of explaining it) offers grants for people in the University to enagge in ‘research activities that are interdisciplinary and collaborative’

Here’s what I put in.

Are the people who represent the community part of the community?
The media have traditionally claimed the role of the fourth estate, framing and advocating issues and debates for the public; gathering information on the basis that the majority do not have the resources themselves. But new media driven, content creation (perhaps best defined under the catch all phrase citizen journalism) has challenged the traditional media’s primacy in this role by putting the means to source and distribute information in the hands of the audience.

This change is forcing many media organisations to redefine the relationships they have with the communities they are supposed to represent.

The same technology that challenges these relationships has also had a profound impact within the traditional media. The production process has become increasingly ‘digital’ in the way the information is collected, processed and distributed. This, in turn, has resulted in a reduction of the number of journalists and editorial staff.

So the balance between the numbers of editorial staff within the media and the number of people in the community (the audience) who are generating content is at tipping point. Many in the community question the ability of the mainstream media to reflect their interests; the community they live in.

This paradigm shift is often referred to as a** change from lecture to conversation.**

In an effort deal with this change, many media organisations have embraced the concept of community as a strategy. By offering blogs, community forums and other forms of social interaction the aim is to become a central part of the conversation. In the print media this is best illustrated by one media groups aim to convert their newsrooms in to community hubs – the central point for a community to share information.

But does creating a ‘virtual’ hub really create a focus point for community or are the media, in their daily practice, physically too isolated to be recognised as part of the community?

The project
The aim of this project is to map the movement of journalists in the local community by taking reporters from print, radio and TV and providing them with GPS enabled devices to track their movements throughout normal reporting day.

The aim then would be to compare this with the data created from the social mapping projects within Sandbox and see where the two overlay.

In essence it’s an audience research project that provides an interesting exploration of news agendas – that of the professional reporters and the stories they either elect to cover or are sent to cover – and those issues reflected by communities participating in city media – their ‘news’ agendas.

The project would then attempt to develop a matrix that visually demonstrated when and where the news agendas of local communities and those of professional media organizations coincide, with a view to examining the range of elements that lead to this juxtaposition.

Conducted in this way the research can explore ‘randomness’, and ‘proximity’ to breaking news as a value that impacts news agendas (and says something about reseources too).

The next logical stage of this research is to begin to map other stake holders in the process – politicians.

Now I just need to do it.