Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Pauly, John J.

Second Advisor

Garner , Ana

Third Advisor

Ugland, Erik


This is a case study of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS) – a three-year-old, award-winning, online-only journalism source at A longtime journalist and communications professional leads a small team of part-time reporters, interns and volunteers as NNS seeks to provide professional and objective reporting about 17 low-income communities in America’s 30th largest city. This research examines the extent to which NNS has achieved its goals by analyzing and interpreting a significant sample of the 750-plus stories published on its website. It also focuses on the individual and shared experiences of the news service’s staff as it uses journalism to help construct a sense of community. In addition to how other media and institutions have reacted to its work, the study also examines how NNS contributes to the ongoing discussion of journalism and community journalism – and how and why journalism matters to how a neighborhood is perceived – even as the news service’s supporters consider its sustainability. NNS is based at Marquette University, which is a short distance from the targeted communities. But unlike community journalism initiatives that are curricular highlights at academic institutions elsewhere, NNS stems from a unique partnership between a university and community-building operations. This study is mindful of prior consultant reports by two recognized media stalwarts as it also looks at how the news service views itself and its work in hopes of better understanding its overall purpose. This research reviews the vast critical thinking concerning the concepts of community and sense of community as well as journalism, community journalism, public (or civic) journalism and online journalism. The social construction of reality is used as a theoretical framework from which to create four guiding questions: 1) How does NNS imagine its work? 2) What defines its work? 3) How have others in the community and elsewhere described or presented its work? 4) Who has done the work and what have they learned about journalism and community? This study ends by discussing the implications that the news service has for journalism education as well as for journalism and community.