Community management gets real

Posted on January 26, 2011 by Janet Coats

I’ve written several times in the last month about my search for the perfect definition of community management.

With help from lots of friends who’ve given considerable thought the question, I settled on the idea that a good community manager is focused on service.  To that end, she listens well. He seeks to understand and clarify ideas. She looks for common ground and constructive solutions. And he recognizes that real progress moves the whole community forward rather than advancing an individual.

There’s a reason I’ve been so interested in refining the definition of community management. We’re enabling a search for a community manager to help advance the dialogue within the group of entrepreneurial local news publishers who first gathered to discuss their opportunities and challenges last fall.

That gathering, called the Block by Block Community News Summit, was enabled in part by The Patterson Foundation.  We took an interest in this particular community for several reasons.

First, these publishers are starting things from scratch. They are innovators, building not just their own news organizations but their own businesses.  One of our values at The Patterson Foundation is to encourage and learn from those who are forging new ways of approaching communities and problem-solving.

Second, they are focused on local communities. There are many forms of innovation taking place during this time of disruption in journalism’s old models – some focused on national coverage, some on strictly on investigative journalism, some on very targeted topics. These publishers are focused on physical community – the kind of local news coverage and dialogue that has taken a serious hit as newspapers have contracted.

Finally, this is a group for whom connection is especially important. There are several hundred entrepreneurial community publishers out there, so the issue is not numbers – it is isolation. A publisher in Birmingham may be discovering better ways to do his work, and those methods may have value for a publisher in Boise – but there isn’t a clear way for them to find each other and connect.

We want to help provide the connection. Because we think that by sharing both their headaches and their victories, these innovators will make big problems smaller and create momentum for their good work.

In the next few weeks, I expect to learn even more about community management as I talk to those who are interested in helping the Block by Block community grow and thrive. I’ll have help in that process from five community publishers who’ve agreed to serve as advisors to The Patterson Foundation in helping map this work.

I can’t wait to start talking – and more importantly, to start listening.

Here’s the posting for the community manager position:

Block by Block Publishers Seek Community Manager

In September, more than 60 online community news publishers gathered for the first time in Chicago for a summit called Block by Block.

Now, the Block by Block publishers are seeking a part-time community manager to help further the dialogue they started in the fall.

The community manager will help entrepreneurial local news publishers across the country connect so to share more widely emerging best practices for generating content, engaging with communities, using technology tools and developing revenue streams to sustain their work.

We are seeking someone who is addicted to the conversation about the future of community news and information. The best candidate will be someone with experience in community news, preferably in an online startup.

Candidates should have strong written and oral communication skills and a broad understanding of the social media universe. They should be comfortable using technology and conversant in emerging new tools.

Most important, candidates should be able to connect disparate threads of information, to see emerging patterns and to help identify topics worthy of further exploration. We need someone who is a good listener with an inquisitive spirit, someone who regularly asks the “how’’ and “why’’ questions and shares the resulting answers with the broader community.

This position will be a virtual one; geography is not a barrier for applicants. At this time, we expect the position to occupy approximately 20 hours a week.

Funding for the position is provided by The Patterson Foundation. You can find a full position description at

If you are interested in applying or would like to learn more, contact Janet Coats, New Media Journalism Initiative Manager, The Patterson Foundation at

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