Palo Alto Weekly Launches Town Square To Promote ‘Citizen Journalism’

New online community forum will provide news, feedback, opportunities for civil dialogue and information on issues

Starting today, Palo Alto area residents may publish their own news stories, share opinions and engage in dialogue on local issues in a new “Town Square” section of the Weekly’s popular Palo Alto Online community Web site.

“With more than 300,000 unique users now coming to Palo Alto Online for news and other information each month, it has become a phenomenally successful community resource,” Weekly publisher Bill Johnson said. The site is at

“Now it’s time to open up Palo Alto Online and encourage the concept that has become known as ‘citizen journalism’ to flourish,” Johnson said in announcing the launch.

“We want residents to turn to Town Square to ask the community for everything from information on art classes to advice on good places to stay in Tuscany, and to express opinions on local, state, national and international issues.”

Posting topics on Town Square is easy and requires no registration. Users must identify themselves as living in a specific neighborhood or school community and are encouraged but not required to use their full names.

Readers of the Weekly will be urged to respond to news stories, movie and restaurant reviews, editorials and opinion pieces by posting comments on Town Square. Results of high-school sports competitions can be quickly posted by parents as soon as games are over.

“In essence, Town Square turns everyone into potential publishers and makes it possible to communicate directly with other community members without depending on the newspaper,” Johnson said. “If we miss a news story, hopefully someone will post their own story on Town Square.”

All postings to Town Square will be monitored by the staff of Palo Alto Online and must adhere to guidelines explained on the site. Users are asked to be respectful of others and to help create a thoughtful forum where divergent ideas and opinions are welcome.

The introduction of Town Square coincides with other improvements to Palo Alto Online. The home page has been expanded and now features more local headline news updated throughout the day and evenings, highlights of the most recent classified-ad postings, the top posts to the Town Square forums and new features for local advertisers.

The Weekly has been a pioneer in the use of the Internet. In 1993, it was the first newspaper in the country to post its content on the Web. Two years later this grew into Palo Alto Online, a comprehensive community news and information site that now attracts 300,000 users each month.

The Weekly also sends e-bulletins to nearly 3,000 registered recipients — including most neighborhood group leaders who can pass on relevant news to their organizations — when there is a major news event or breaking story.