The Rapidian

Apparently, Rapidians are Sticky

Underwriting support from:

The "Soul of the Community"

The entire report and video is available on the "Soul of the Community" website.


From The Rapidian Staff
Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site. Click here for past editorials.

From The Rapidian staff: The Rapidian is an open platform where the community self-selects the news and information to be shared and reported. The original intent was to increase community engagement and encourage connections in the community. The big question was, if left to the community to decide, will citizen reporters create content that really matters? Last week, I discovered that according to some significant research, Rapidian reporters appear to be on target.

The 2010 “Soul of the Community” report, a project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with Gallup, is the result of a 3-year study seeking to answer three basic questions. “What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off?” In other words, what makes a community sticky?

The report found that while the usual suspects like housing and jobs are important to meet people’s basic needs, they have relatively little bearing on how emotionally attached people are to their community. According to the study “attachment is more closely related to how accepting a community is of diversity, its wealth of social offerings, and its aesthetics.” Further, the study points out, levels of attachment are directly related to the economic health and vitality of a community. So this is not just “feel good” stuff but a real indication that feeling good makes the best economic sense.

So how does this relate to the Rapidian? Surprisingly well, it appears. Given the opportunity to self-define and publish hyper-local news, the pieces most frequently created and submitted are highly representative of the community factors called out in the study; openness, aesthetics, and social opportunity. The number of arts and entertainment stories, for instance, outpace any other subject. Our largest weekly audiences occurred as discussions about art and community activities flourished on The Rapidian during ArtPrize. The other top “reader engagement period” centered around Michael Tuffelmire's three-part piece about homelessness; sparking conversation around inclusiveness and our community’s welcome (or not) of the homeless among us.

Other locals have taken note of this study. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently convened a conversation to discuss how people think we, as a community, are doing in the key indicator areas in the report. According to Laurie Craft, a program director at the Community Foundation (and one of the event conveners), attendees felt quite positive about Grand Rapids’ aesthetic and social appeal; however according to Craft “I think the ‘openness’ characteristic was the one that captured the imagination of most and where the participants felt we have the most work to do as a community.” It appears, according to the study, that attention in this area will serve the community well, both socially and economically.

This report has made me consider the workings of The Rapidian in a slightly different light. I have sometimes wondered if the type of content most often presented (arts, nonprofits, local life, for example) is the “right” content to make The Rapidian really effective in strengthening our community. Well, if engagement is our goal (and it is), and the study has correctly identified what leads to attachment, and that attachment leads to a vital community, then I am inclined to believe we (at The Rapidian) need to spend less time wondering about the “right” content topics. Apparently, Rapidian reporters have known all along what they are. We need to spend our best energy ensuring a supportive and inclusive platform for all of this stickiness. Keep it coming, Rapidians, and we’ll do our best to keep the welcome mat on the doorstep.

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Proud to be representing GR's "stickiness."

You represent us all so well!!

Thanks to Ruth Terry for pointing to this article that builds on the study: