Backfence closes its doors

"Citizen journalism" — journalism with the participation of its audience and community — is an ideal easy to support, but it's not so easy to build a business based on idealism. Dan Gillmor, ex-journalist and leading promoter of citizen journalism, citing his lack of business skills, wisely jettisoned Bayosphere, the Bay Area community journalism site, to Backfence earlier this year. Now Backfence is "ceasing operations within the next few days" for all of its communities (the site is still live, but the closure notice is posted on each area's community page).

Backfence had secured at least $3 million in funding from SAS Investors and Omidyar Network, the investment vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Little explanation is provided for Backfence's closure, but little is required. Journalism is a difficult business; citizen journalism is a precarious business ... if it's a business at all.