iBrattleboro.com homepageWhen we moved MuseArts to Brattleboro, VT in 2001, we noticed that this fabulous little town didn’t have a good web site to show off all the great things about the town. ¬†Our first thought was to create a complete, online guide to Brattleboro and we bought the domain name iBrattleboro.com.

As we got going, we realized the project was much bigger than we had anticipated. Brattleboro had too much going on and too much history for the two of us to do it justice. We put the project on the shelf and went about doing paid work for clients.

Filling a Media Hole with iBrattleboro

In late 2002 and early 2003, a “perfect storm” of events led to the beginnings of what is now known as citizen journalism.

1. Media consolidation was threatening democracy.

2. Major, corporate media was one-sided and leading us into a war in Iraq.

This led us to believe that a “safety valve” of sorts was needed – something to get real information out to people in the event the corporation controlling one’s news didn’t want something discussed.

The idea came about pretty quickly: what if we create a site using software designed to facilitate tech discussions, but adapt it to be used for local news? What is we try to use the “world wide web” just to put neighbors in contact with one another? What is people could write their own news?

It was a radical idea. There was no social media or YouTube. News corporations didn’t request videos or opinions from viewers and readers. It was very much a top-down approach, with editors and publishers making decisions about what was and wasn’t news.

Would People Write About Where They Live?

Brattleboro  Main Street 1941

iBrattleboro.com started in February of 2003, and is now known as one of the longest-running citizen journalism sites in the country. At the time, it was hard to describe what it was. There was no name for what we were doing. It was sort of a blog, but people didn’t know what blogs were. It was part newspaper, part magazine, and part forum.

In the summer of 2003, we saw writer Dan Gilmore use the phrase “citizen journalism” to describe a site in Korea, and adopted it.

Brattleboro and Beyond

iBrattleboro has had over 2,500 people register to contribute news, events, and information. Over 30,000 visitors read more than 100,000 pages on the site each month.

iBrattleboro has been featured in the Washington Post, Business Week, and Online Journalism Review, and Lise and Chris have given presentations to organizations such as the Online News Association, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and Vermont’s e-state initiative. We’ve answered questions for college students and journalists, and have helped other communities launch similar projects.

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