This addendum branches off from my blog post addressing universities’ role as potential hubs of journalistic activities. To see what other carnies thought about universities as journalistic hubs and their role in media literacy, check out Dave Cohn’s roundup at the Carnival of Journalism
Most universities, especially bigger research ones, work on projects that are outward facing, and it seems like currently, they fall under two categories:
- Creating modules and components that various news outlets can utilize (All Our Ideas, Mobile Journalism Tools)
- Engaging the communities that are around them (MyMissourian, The Local – East Village)
A nod to fellow carny Christopher Wink: “Big universities have a long history of lacking support from the communities that surround them, despite being important jobs creators, covering surrounding neighborhoods can go a long way to sure up its connections with local leaders and residents.”
First ingredient: An ongoing champion. The danger of crunched timelines is hasty work, and sometimes not enough time to conduct a thorough community assessment, create a structure and platform, build momentum and community and execute a plan. Not only that, but having now lived in a state where at least one city is (perhaps unfairly) described as post-apocalyptic, I’ve learned that some institutions actually restrict student contact with local communities, and that could be an insurmountable hurdle if it piles on more legwork to get to the point of experimentation.
In smaller towns or with underserved populations, it’s an easy mistake to determine communities’ news needs for them. Often times, it’s not that underserved communities don’t have a clue about what they’re missing within their communities; they still have a sense of what they want to consume. When institutions do things in the name of underserved communities, I can’t stress how important it is to involve those communities in the process or you’re risking the perception of having co-opted their needs.
One of my favorite write-ups is from Daniela Gerson of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She helped launch Alhambra Source, a multilingual site for the 90,000 residents of media-starved Alhambra.
- “Although it would, at times, be easier for me to just report and write the stories myself, another focus was making this a community project, and using digital tools as much as possible to encourage participation.”
- “Despite great effort on all sides, it took us a year to complete our multilingual site, the Alhambra Source. For me this has been a major source of frustration, but as we approached launch date I realized that perhaps it might have been to our advantage. We needed time to create a team of collaborators of both community members and students from a high school program that could inform site development and feel a real sense of ownership. A significant component of the communication research, as well, needed that time to come together.”
Well said. In other words, who are you serving?
The Carnival of Journalism is a loose network of journalistic bloggers plumbing the current state and future of journalism on a monthly basis.
Denise is the citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian, a participatory news project powered by the Grand Rapids community. You can read more of her musings on technology and storytelling/journalism on her blog and at The Rapidian’s dev blog.