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A manifesto for a community journalism community…or something

November 23, 2010

For too long, community journalists (and photojournalists) in Canada  have shouldered a heavy load but been ignored by national professional organizations.

There is no organization that exposes the small-city publisher who hacks a newspaper’s staff, rails against work conditions, or stands up for reporters pressured to write fluff. Training tends to focus on those stories that may be nearly impossible for small-town reporters to accomplish, whether it be because of a lack of resources, time or support.

We have only ourselves to blame. We have no support because we have neglected to form a community of local reporters,  and because reporters from large news organizations tend to dominate the CAJ and other forums. This is a function of experience, desire, culture and pay rates. The $75 fee to belong to CAJ seems awfully expensive to most of us who rarely interact with that organization and who never have the opportunity to take advantage of those services offered.

Hence this site. I hope it sparks a dialogue about community reporting, fosters better journalism, and pressures owners and publishers to allow us to do our job better. It will also hopefully mark a chance to socialize.

I would like eventually to shed my cloak of anonymity; I realize that if it’s not hypocritical, then it’s just plain weird to put my name on columns and stories but not this site. I like my job and don’t have too much to complain about, other than a chilly workplace and your typically heavy workload. I like my publisher, feel free to write what I like, and would not be ashamed to put my name on this site. I hope to follow those practices laid down by ombudsmen and women at larger papers. But community newspapers are notoriously skin-thinned. To name myself—at this point, at least—would be to imperil future job prospects. One day I’ll come out. Just not right now.

Over the next couple weeks I plan to post a couple community projects with which I hope to solicit readers’ help. I also plan to highlight examples of good community reporting that deserve to be read and applauded. It won’t be all smiles though; at some point I will also turn my eye towards those fluff pieces demanded by advertising-appeasing publishers. But that is a ways off. We’ll stay positive for the time being.

You can e-mail me at bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com, or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/bclocalreporter

Photo by Stephen Dann via Flickr
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