The specific public-media produced website that I have chosen is NewsWorks.org, which is affiliated with local Philadelphia radio station WHYY. NewsWorks.org bills itself as, “News and conversation for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware”.
History and Production
A search for the history of NewsWorks failed to turn up a detailed history of the Web site. However, the Philadelphia radio station WHYY began in 1954 as the Metropolitan Philadelphia Educational Radio and Television Corporation (WHYY, 2013). Its mission was to provide educational and cultural programming to those in the metropolitan Philadelphia area. In 1957, it added public television broadcasting. In 1986, it expanded into Delaware. In 2009 with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the NewsWorks Web site began, to extend their reach into multimedia digital programming (NewsWorks, 2016).

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Other funding sources have their own goals for NewsWorks. Key supporters include the Bennett Foundation to support arts and culture reporting and civic engagement regarding public issues; the Penn Foundation to support a NewsWorks Tonight news magazine on WHYY and the “It’s Our Money” blog and podcast; the Scattergood Foundation and the Public Health Fund to support the Health and Science Desk; the Wyncote Foundation to support grassroots media projects; the Skelton Harrison Foundation to support city reporting; and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to support fight-smoking forums. The common goal is to encourage the use of digital technologies.

Distribution
NewsWorks.org is, of course, available on its Web site. In addition, with its daily radio program NewsWorks Tonight on WHYY, the Web site engages listeners to hear some of its best content. It also offers podcasts with a variety of experts and diverse guests. Featured sections of the Web site include The Latest, Speak Easy, Health + Science, The Pulse (technology), Arts + Culture, Politics, Blogs, PlanPhilly, Keystone Crossroads, and special sections for New Jersey and Delaware. Several of these sections encourage community voices. Plan Philly engages citizens in local issues, and Keystone Crossroads takes some of those same issues and examines how other cities meet these challenges. By providing in-depth news, a diverse forum, and participation in the life of the Philadelphia and other communities, NewsWorks has become well known and grown its service functions.

Content
Newsworks.org provides news and commentary, education and culture, a public forum, and civic engagement. It continues to focus on metropolitan Philadelphia, but also the same expanded area as that reached by WHYY radio and television, which includes New Jersey and Delaware. There is some commentary, but it has a more objective journalistic voice than is often found in current corporate newspapers. It tends to carry more in-depth news than the regular newspapers or television stations. For example, while local newspapers’ front pages are mostly dedicated to sports, top items at the NewsWorks home page today include Clinton’s visit to Philadelphia in search of union support, “Work begins on memorial park at Philly building site collapse,” an article about Atlantic City, and a story on Pennsylvania’s Clean Power Plan. NewsWorks does not use a pay wall, unlike the local newspaper.

As mentioned, some of NewsWorks’ key supporters are particularly interested in supporting health and science news, and these pages have substantial content. NewsWorks’ health and science pages today include articles regarding votes on a bill to limit abortions in Pennsylvania, and “Christie commits $10 million to New Jersey lead remediation effort”. On “The Pulse” page (“stories at the heart of health, science, and innovation”), there is an article on vaccines and one on a history of talking machines. Both pages include further stories regarding the detriments to health that can come from eating too much sugar, the history and future of the stethoscope, the move by pediatricians away from lollipops for their patients, and lessons from the “Book of Secrets”. There are many other articles available that do not currently have as prominent a place on these pages, but may be of interest to certain readers, such as an article on the future of natural history museums, and Yelp reviews for hospitals. Thus, readers can learn about many health-related issues at this Web site.

Another area of interest to those who provide and listen to public radio is the arts and culture. In this area, too, NewsWorks has dedicated pages. Current items under Arts + Culture include a story of an immigrant family who settled in Philadelphia, a weekly entertainment guide to inform readers of events – including places to enjoy spring blooms, stories on the Philadelphia Art Museum, a local food show, a fundraiser by a local artist, the Women’s Humane Society that works for animal rights, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, the Camden comic convention, discussion regarding whether or not Philadelphia needs a culture plan, and an auction of boxing memorabilia. Clearly, cultural items include a broad array of items of interest to various people, and may stimulate interest in new cultural activities that readers had not thought about much before.

NewsWorks encourages discussion throughout their site, and has an entire page of guidelines to encourage discussion within their vision of a community. They try to encourage disagreement while keeping the peace – “polite controversy”. Some of their rules include no obscenities, respect copyright, stay on topic, be concise, respect privacy, do not advertise or campaign, participate in community moderation, and “don’t feed the trolls”. Comments that staff determine are offensive will be deleted. Considering the nature of many Web sites, where comments deteriorate into flame wars, trolling, pie fights, and threats (as is well known from personal experience), such rules are necessary to have anything that approximates community engagement.

Contribution
With the large variety of information available at NewsWorks.org, this Web site is beneficial in many ways. It makes a valuable contribution to its readers and listeners, providing in-depth news, expanded knowledge of current issues and events throughout the community, background information that can make its readers and listeners healthier and happier, and creating a community of readers and listeners who will be good community citizens.

It was originally thought that media that were not controlled by the government would be beneficial to the public, but much of the major media is now controlled by corporations, whose interests are best served by providing consumers with safe entertaining topics such as sports and celebrity news. Online, the focus is on “click-bait” titles and quick reads such as “top five” lists. There are also search engines that return results tailored to the searcher’s prior preferences revealed by cookies and other “spying” technologies, such that each Internet viewer is in his or her own bubble. Corporations are primarily interested in those things that uphold their own legitimacy, and those things that will prompt consumers to buy whatever their advertisers are advertising. Public media have a larger purpose, to inform more than to entertain, and to create citizens more than consumers. While there are remnants of earlier paternalistic notions that citizens need to be exposed to more culture, the variety of the current Web site provides more than highbrow culture, but also popular entertainment, with a mild nod to the sports that dominate so much of corporate media. Therefore, this is a Web site that should be supported by public media, to provide education on multiple topics so that there can be a more informed and engaged citizenry. The tendency for Americans to be divided along political or other lines needs to be fought against, so that our political divisions do not deepen and harden. Public media may still play a role in bringing us together around topics of local interest.

    References
  • NewsWorks Staff. NewsWorks: News and Conversation for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. WHYY, 2016. Web. 6 Apr. 2016. .
  • WHYY. “WHYY History.” WHYY About. WHYY, 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2016. .