A Community of Journalists

“A community newspaper is a publication with a circulation under 50,000 serving people who live together in a distinct geographical space with a clear local-first emphasis on news, features, sports, and advertising,” Jock Lauterer said, defining community journalism in his book “Community Journalism Relentlessly Local.” “A more liberal definition of community journalism will include papers serving not just ‘communities of place’ but also communities of ethnicity, faith, ideas or interest.”

In today’s era, community journalism is becoming more and more popular. As print publications slow in popularity, information about the Kardashian family and entertainment such as viral videos are beginning to rise in popularity.

I believe these things are not true journalism. They lean more on the side of entertainment. There is still entertainment in journalism, but hearing about the Kardashian family’s going-ons and watching local viral videos does not give the same quality to journalism that actual factual journalism does.

Lauterer said in his book “Community Journalism Relentlessly Local” that there is a branch of journalism that people call small-j journalism. According to Lauterer, small-j journalism is when the readers walk into a newspaper newsroom and tell an editor what they are thinking. This type of journalism is directly community journalism related.

Lauterer said emphasizing that the paper is first and foremost local is what Charles Kuralt, a well-known CBS legend, called “relentlessly local.”

“We call such papers ‘community newspapers….,’” Lauterer said. “Though such papers are small, their impact is large.”

I think community newspapers are very important to communities. Take local Lynchburg, Virginia newspaper The News and Advance for example. It keeps the Lynchburg community, and surrounding communities, up-to-date with what is going on in central Virginia.

Newspapers such as the News and Advance effect the community greatly because without these newspapers, and other local media outlets, the community would not know everything to is happening. The community would be subject to what is mentioned in passing and passed around verbally through the community or through social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

According to UKTV’s General Manager Factual Adrian Wills, quoted in Kate Bulkley’s article “The rise of citizen journalism” published in The Guardian, social media and footage captured by citizen journalists does not impact his programming. Wills said it is however a marketing tool that is growing in importance.

Bulkley said citizen journalism, as well as video testimonies from regular citizens, is definitely benefiting current affairs.

“Social networks are opening up whole new vistas for documentary filmmakers,” Editorial Director of ITN Productions Chris Shaw said, quoted in Bulkley’s article. “You can make the most amazing films using content from social networks, sometimes with the permission and sometimes without the permission of the people who shot them.”

With social media and electronics made my Apple and Samsung, anyone can become a journalist in today’s age.

“A variety of problems surround ‘citizen journalism’ and the use of social media to report serious crimes and atrocities,” Mark Ellis said, in his article published in The Huffington Post.

It is a scary thought to think, though, that as more and more people upload videos and blog articles, as community journalism becomes much more popular, bigger news industries could possibly grow small. Newspapers are already not as popular as they were twenty years ago.

“On the surface, most people do not feel that their local newspaper is a key source that they rely on for local information….,” Tom Rosenstiel, along with Amy Mitchell, Kristen Purcell and Lee Rainie said in an analysis published by the Pew Research Center. “Yet when asked about specific local topics and which sources they rely on for that information, it turns out that many adults are quite reliant on newspapers and websites.”

One problem with community journalism arises in that it is not as credible as real journalists in news publications and media organizations. Anyone can type a tweet and report a robbery to be seen on Oak Street, yet how do we know we can take them for their word?

“Another (problem) is that while eyewitness accounts on the Internet help to raise awareness of atrocities, they are not useful in the prosecution of individuals who commit international crimes,” Ellis said. “Because personal videos are not authenticated with a chain of custody record, they are of little or no use to legal authorities investigating or prosecuting crimes. If such videos do reach a court or tribunal, they are likely to be rejected or given little weight.”

Yet even though it is scary that anyone can become a journalist with today’s technology, when thought about logically, community journalism can be very beneficial as it adds different perspectives and ideas into the world of journalism. It adds the public’s perspective.

“Phone cameras and internet video must threaten broadcasters who think TV viewers will move away from them (and on to the web), but the collective arena is a hive of creativity,” Molly Dineen said, documentary creator quoted in Bulkley’s article.

According to Héctor Tobar in his article “Who’d Be a Journalist?” published in the opinion pages of The New York Times, the greatest journalists will connect with their listeners, viewers and readers by having an open mind and being compassionate. This applies to community journalists as well, because the more creative and kind you are as a journalist, the more people will see your story and appreciate its true value and importance.

“I tell the young reporters I teach at the University of Oregon to ignore the gloom that surrounds the profession and its future,” Tobar said. “People will always have an appetite for true stories well told. And they will never stop wanting essential information, delivered quickly and accurately.”

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