July 14, 2014

Call for papers: International perspectives on community journalism

Special, joint issue call for papers: Community Journalism and Grassroots Editor
Submission deadline: September 2, 2014 (extended abstracts);
December 15, 2014 (full manuscript); March 2015 (publication)
Guest editor:
John Hatcher of the University of Minnesota Duluth
Overview: This special, joint issue, titled “International Perspectives on Community Journalism,” will attempt to unite top scholars in the field of community journalism in an exploration of this growing and exciting area of research. This issue also will solicit articles from leading community journalists from across the globe who will offer their own analyses of the state of community journalism.
·      Grassroots Editor, the journal of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, was first published in January of 1960.
·      Community Journalism, first published in 2012, is the online, peer-reviewed journal based at Texas Christian University that is the official journal of the Community Journalism Interest Group (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication).
Peer-reviewed articles: This special issue will explore the nature of community journalism on a global scale. We seek mostly empirical work, though we welcome methodologies of all types (including well-reasoned theoretical pieces). We invite manuscripts that discuss community journalism at both the country level and in comparative, multi-country analyses.
Essays from the field: Community journalists who are members of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors are encouraged to submit pieces that offer a perspective on community journalism in their country. Ideally, these pieces will include some original reporting and look beyond the case of one newspaper or news organization.
For both peer-reviewed articles and essays from professionals, articles that broach the following kinds of topics are encouraged:
·      Does the concept of community journalism have the same meaning regardless of the cultural setting?
·      What role does community journalism play in providing a voice to communities historically overlooked by larger publications?
·      Does print journalism remain a vital medium in some countries and for some communities? Why/why not?
·      What is the historical context that defines community journalism in a given country?

Submission instructions/deadlines: Peer-reviewed articles should be no more than 8,000 words in length, excluding references etc. Please submit an extended abstract (750 words or less) and 2-3 suggested reviewers no later than September 2, 2014, to jhatcher@d.umn.edu. Abstracts should outline the proposed research and give a sense of the theoretical approach, method and timeline for completion. Full manuscripts are due December 15, 2014 (also to jhatcher@d.umn.edu), when they will be peer-reviewed and considered for acceptance by members of the editorial board of Community Journalism. The scheduled date of publication is March 2015. The journal will be available online and will be printed thanks to the support of ISWNE. Please contact John Hatcher at jhatcher@d.umn.edu with questions. Manuscripts should conform to the guidelines for Community Journalism (http://journal.community-journalism.net/content/call-papers).

July 11, 2014

RIP: John Seigenthaler, who appreciated courageous community journalists

John Seigenthaler
John Seigenthaler, who died today at his home in Nashville, was not a community journalist, at least in the traditional sense. But he was an exemplary and inspiring journalist, and he appreciated the contributions and sacrifices of rural and community journalists to the profession he loved and to the cause of open government, for which he crusaded.

In helping present the Tom and Pat Gish Award to the Ezzell family of The Canadian (Tex.) Record in 2007, Seigenthaler said, "I have never been among friends, among journalists, when I have felt more deeply touched by the emotion of being in the presence of people who have . . . committed their lives to tenacity, courage and integrity," the criteria for the award, given by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

"Weekly journalism is what this country was about at the beginning. Weekly publishers were people of courage, of integrity, and tenacity stood against authority, stood against community evils, against national evils, international problems, took strong positions, and that’s our legacy. That’s MY legacy, and I never worked for a weekly. . . . One place young journalists should be looking for employment, for jobs where there is confidence about a future, is in rural America, where I find less concern about the future than in daily journalism. . . .

 "It’s much easier for me, as a daily editor in a major city. There is much less danger of threat, much more chance that I have lawyers to protect me. There is much less likelihood that somebody will explode a bomb beneath my window of shoot into my plate-glass window or burn down our building, than for those who are in rural communities. And when I say I hope I have shown tenacity and courage and integrity, I can’t think of anything in my career that matches what must be those lonely days and nights when a lawsuit is threatened or danger is threatened, when life is threatened, in a rural community."

Seigenthaler concluded, "I think the tradition, the legacy, is best reflected today in rural journalism." For more of his remarks, click here. For his obituary, tributes and funeral information from The Tennessean, go here.

June 12, 2014

Saving Community Journalism at UNC

A good look at the University of North Carolina's program to help community news orgs move into the digital age:


May 16, 2014

Feeding the goat: Why smaller newsrooms aren't using digital tools

This is an important report from Duke's newsroom project (with a catchy title).

The report confirms what I have found: Too often smaller newsrooms are ignoring digital tools that are free or low cost and could help them do a better job.

We ride the hamster wheel because we want to, not because we have to.

Related: NY Times report raises alarms about newsroom's digital future.

May 08, 2014

Readers more loyal to large digital news sites. Implications?

This piece from Poynter caught my eye -- Report: readers more loyal to large news sites.

The latest report by analytics firm Parse.ly indicates large news sites see a greater percentage of visitors return within 30 days than small news sites do.

That finding runs counter to the company’s internal hypothesis that niche sites would have higher return rates, the company said in an email.
(Note, this is one of those reports that to get you have to give out an email to get on a mailing list, so it's good to have a garbage email account handy.)

Although this is talking about mostly pure digital sites, it makes me wonder if there are implications for smaller community publishers as well. I've been pondering the potential squeeze on local media - it doesn't scale in an era when there is a race to the bottom in online ad rates and so scale is almost mandatory, and then when people get online I've often suspected just from observation that they gravitate to the larger national and international sites.

This makes for some very interesting thinking on the business model for local media, especially that midrange of small dailies, as mobile makes its relentless penetration.

March 27, 2014

Paul Fahri on the decline of local news

From the Washington Post following up on Pew's State of the News Media 2014 report:

The demise of the News & Messenger tells a small story about a larger movement within the news business. Even in prosperous, well-educated Prince William County, local news has become a tough sell, especially online. It’s not that people aren’t interested in their communities — local news usually ranks as the top priority in surveys — it’s that the economics of the digital age work strongly against reporting about schools, cops and the folks down the street.


March 09, 2014

COMJIG Call for Papers

The Community Journalism Interest Group (COMJIG) is seeking original, non published research papers to be considered for presentation at the 2014 AEJMC national conference in Montreal, Canada. The deadline for paper submissions is April 1, 2014.

This theme for this year’s submissions will be “The Next 10 Years of Community Journalism.” 2014 represents the 10 year anniversary for the community journalism interest group. COMJIG’S goal is to identify and present original, meaningful research that advances the understanding of the role of journalists and news organizations as members of communities, geographic or digital. We emphasize that community need not just be defined as within traditional geographical or social boundaries, but that given technological advances it may also be applied to journalism and its relationship to communities of interest online. Papers could address issues such as how “community’” is defined or how its meaning changes in an increasingly digital media environment. In addition, while the interest group will seek to offer a diverse program, we hope to receive some submissions that address the theme “The Next 10 Years of Community Journalism.” To mark the 10-year anniversary, we will offer a special referred research panel on the future of community. The top submissions relating to the theme will have the opportunity to be considered for submission to the peer reviewed journal Community Journalism, COMJIG’S official publication.

Paper submissions should include a 100 to 150 word abstract and not exceed 8,000 words, including references, tables and notes. All papers should conform to APA style, Sixth Edition. Graduate students are encouraged to submit papers.

All research papers must be uploaded to the group via a link on the AEJMC website. Please see AEJMC’s Paper Competition Uniform Call for more information.

Additional questions should be directed to COMJIG Research Committee Chair Hans K. Meyer (meyerh@ohio.edu).

March 03, 2014

Nominations Needed

AEJMC is seeking nominations (applications and self-nominations are welcome) for the 2014 AEJMC Equity & Diversity Award, which recognizes academic units that are working toward, and have attained demonstrable success in increasing equity and diversity.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. Eastern time, March 18, 2014.

Please address any questions to: Deb Aikat <da@unc.edu>, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

February 17, 2014

Should city pay postage to distribute community weekly?

The Madison, Wis., suburb of Fitchburg has entered a deal with a community-newspaper publisher to cover at least $30,000 in postage to revive the print edition of the town's paper, which stopped printing the paper in 2009. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal broaches the conflict-of-interest topic (would the deal curb editorial independence, despite assurances from both the publisher and the mayor that it would not?). It also briefly touches on the "value of community newspapers," though it does not expand on that point.

February 12, 2014

Journalism Practice: Special Community Journalism Issue

J-Practice's special community journalism issue is out:


Lots of good stuff.

February 03, 2014

COMJIG Panelists Needed

Hello everyone,

I hope everyone is getting excited about our conference in Montreal in August. As you know, the Community Journalism Interest Group is sponsoring and/or co-sponsoring several interesting panels during the conference, including:

- First Nation Media in North America (Sat., Aug. 9, 12:45 p.m.)
- Hyperlocal Journalism on Both Sides of the Border: A Canada-U.S. Perspective (Friday, Aug. 8, 1:45 p.m.)
- Preparing Journalism Students for a Globalized World (Friday, Aug. 8, 5:15 p.m.)
- Defining emergent journalistic behaviors (Wed., Aug. 6, 3:15 p.m.) 

We are participating in two additional panels for which we still need panelists. Please email me by Feb. 17 if you would like to nominate yourself or someone else for the panel. You can email me at garyantes@rowan.edu.

The panels are:

1. Panel: Ethnic Media in North America: Political Rights and Community Participation (Thurs., Aug. 7, 8:15 a.m.)
(Research Panel)
Co-sponsored by MAC and COMJIG

The roles of ethnic media in the U.S. and Canada in the intersection of two realities -- political and gender issues that matter most to ethnic minority groups in question. Because of the growth in ethnic minority populations and the migration of foreign-born populations with different cultural identities, ethnic media industry is growing in both the U.S. and Canada. In multi-ethnic societies, mainstream media outlets struggle to ensure inclusive coverage. Therefore, ethnic and community media outlets are supposed to fill in the gap in a media environment by carrying out the community-oriented coverage of social and political issues. Consequentially, ethnic media can contribute community-oriented perspectives to policymaking processes and policy discourses.

In this context, panelists comprised of media diversity scholars and Montreal-based ethnic media publisher will share their investigations on how effectively the U.S. and Canadian ethnic media have performed their political roles. Along with the political roles of ethnic media, this panel will explore to what extent ethnic media included the perspectives of women/minority women in the discussion/coverage of politically important issues and also examine publications focused on gender.

Prospective Panelists (listed in alphabetical order):
Tracy Everbach, University of North Texas
George Guzmas, the-news.ca
Ralph Izard, Louisiana State University and Media Diversity Forum
Federico Subervi, Kent State University
COMJIG panelist TBA

2. Preparing Students for Community Journalism  (Thurs. Aug. 7, 8:15 a.m.)
(Teaching Panel)
Sponsored by ICIG
Two panelists needed

Community Journalism seems to fit very well in the new hyper-local and community driven journalism industry, both online and in print/broadcast formats. How can instructors better shape their class instruction and guide students into internships that help develop these skills?
A panel discussion focusing on:
a.     What “Best Practices” classroom instruction and experience motivates students’ interest in Community Journalism?
b.     What types of internship opportunities fit best into a Community Journalism experience?
Prospective Panelists (listed in alphabetical order):
Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky
Sue Porter, vice president/programs for the Scripps Howard Foundation

Also looking for academics from co-sponsoring Interest Groups who have taught courses and administered internships focused on Community Journalism.
Dianne Garyantes
Vice Chair/ Program Head, COMJIG

January 17, 2014

Community papers' coverage of drug violations discourages abuse, study finds

Areas with a community newspaper typically have fewer drug-related arrests, according to a study published in the winter issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.

"Community newspapers function to foster a perception of close-knit cohesive communities," and the greater their penetration into a market, the more civic engagement a community has, the researchers write. Civic engagement leads to a sense of belonging, which results in fewer drug-related arrests, they found.

"Community newspapers promote civic engagement by highlighting the characters and activities of local residents and institutions, fostering affective attachment to community, presenting information that helps participate in community events and activities, and cultivating common values in pursuit of social goods," the researchers write. "Communities with such information resources tend to develop voluntary participation."

The study examined a nationally representative sample of 389 counties in 24 states, chosen at random to represent the nation's four main regions. It used information from the federal Uniform Crime Reporting Program and defined "community newspaper" as one with a circulation of less than 50,000. The authors are Masahiro Yamamoto of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Weina Ran of Washington State University. To read their full report, click here. A subscription may be required.

January 09, 2014

Weekly writer tells amazing story of two successful expats who died in same week

By Al Cross
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

Some of the best stories to be told in rural news media are those of successful expatriates, those who found success elsewhere but built it on the values, experiences and knowledge they gained growing up in small towns. All too often, their inspiring stories are condensed or even ignored in standard obituaries. But when two remarkable expats from a poor Appalachian foothills county of 10,000 people die in the same week, that's a news peg not to be missed, even if it takes a "citizen journalist" to do it.

William Russell Miller
This week's Clinton County News, in my hometown of Albany, Ky., has a 1,500-word tribute written by my brother, attorney David Cross, to William Russell Miller, who was the first African American vice president of a major rubber company, and John G. Woodrum, who became one of the best-known casino and hotel operators in Las Vegas and first ran electricity to the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, across from his business at the end of the Strip.

John G. Woodrum (Las Vegas Sun photo)
They didn't forget their hometown. Woodrum sponsored three reunions of his high-school class; Miller tried to start a small Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Albany, and after his retirement from the company, established a small factory in the town. "That didn’t work out either, but he tried," my brother writes. "The man who wasn’t allowed to go to high school here [because of segregation] still tried to help his home town, and its people."

He concludes, "Both J.G. Woodrum and Russell Miller used their rural raising in Kentucky as an advantage, not as an escape. They learned how to deal with people, and to appreciate people, big and small, but with a love for the little people. . . . Their success stories, as well as the stories of those who have chosen to return home, should help motivate our young people to see what they too can achieve when they put their mind to it.

"J.G. Woodrum and Russell Miller both came from similar origins: large, poor families that lived at the end of their roads in rural Clinton County. Ironically, both of those roads now bear their family names of Miller Road and Woodrum Road, but those roads were not dead-ends for them. It was the beginning of their separate journeys. They both used it to help them achieve success, and to help others along the way. These are two stories of The American Dream, fulfilled and achieved, by two country boys from Clinton County who never forgot where they came from." (Read more)

November 26, 2013

Weekly owns a national story

For the last week, The Recorder, a weekly newspaper serving Virginia's Bath and Highland counties, has been on top of a national story -- the attempted murder of state Sen. Creigh Deeds, the 2009 Democratic nominee for governor, by his mentally ill son, for whom a mental-health bed was not available in the area. The paper is still on top of it today, with an interview in which Deeds says he will fight for better mental-health services for rural Virginia.
I am alive for a reason, and I will work for change,” Deeds told Editor-Publisher Anne Adams. “I owe that to my precious son,” who killed himself with a rifle after repeatedly stabbing his father Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Deeds said he thinks the Rockbridge Community Services Board, the regional mental-health agency, is responsible for the incident because it said there were no mental-health beds available in western Virginia after Bath Community Hospital evaluated Gus Deeds, 24, and "recommended he be admitted to a mental-health facility," Adams and reporter Margo Oxendine write.

“I hope we can make a positive change as a result of this tragedy,” Deeds told Adams. “My life’s work now is to make sure other families don’t have to go through what we are living. . . . I hope the justice we can get for my son is to force change in the delivery system for mental health services. Bath and Highland are the end of the line. . . . It seems inconvenient for those people to provide services here. I have heard from people in Rockbridge [County] about lack of services, too, so I think there may be a bigger problem here.”

Deeds' remarks are already circulating nationally, but The Recorder's coverage is now behind a pay wall, and you can hardly fault Adams for that. She owns the story, as she should, and has allowed free access to the paper's earlier stories. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's story today is based largely on The Recorder's interview with Deeds.

Adams told us in an email that the paper reported the incident online no more than 90 minutes after the news broke, and confirmed the involvement of Gus Deeds for its readers and other news media after they picked up the story. She said the paper posted several stories and also used Facebook, then had a full story in its Thursday print edition, all of which was online Wednesday night.

Adams said she reached out to Deeds Monday morning, and "I gather from the volume of calls I'm getting he has not chosen to respond to other reporters yet, but I'm sure he will when he's ready. Lots of healing ahead of him."

November 04, 2013

Sacramento Press sold

"Sacramento Press, the struggling online community newspaper, has been sold to David Terry, a local Internet marketing company owner."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/01/5873033/sacramento-press-communitys-online.html#storylink=cpy


The SacPress was one of the more progressive hyperlocals out there, including its use of navigation around the site.

Ben Ilfeld, the Press' founder, was a speaker at the COMJIG meeting at AEJMC in Boston.

September 11, 2013

Call for Panels for 2014 AEJMC Conference

The Community Journalism Interest Group (COMJIG) is seeking panel proposals for the AEJMC 2014 national conference Aug. 6-9 in Montreal, Canada. The panel proposals are due by 5 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2013. 
COMJIG’S goal is to identify and present original, meaningful research that advances the understanding of the role of journalists and news organizations as members of communities, geographic or digital. We emphasize that community need not just be defined as within traditional geographical or social boundaries, but that given technological advances it may also be applied to journalism and its relationship to communities of interest online. Potential panel proposals could address issues such as how “community'” is defined or how its meaning changes in an online world. International themes also are welcomed.

Panel proposals should include the following information:

• Summary of the panel session topic
• 100- to 150-word abstract from each panel participant
• Name and contact information for the panel chair

Please email proposals to COMJIG vice chair Dianne Garyantes. Special consideration will be given to panel proposals with suggested co-sponsoring divisions/interest groups. (A listing of other AEJMC groups can be found here.)

September 02, 2013

Wanted: Panel Proposals for the 2014 Conference

Hello COMJIG members!

We hope you had a wonderful conference in D.C. this year. It’s not too late to think about next year, is it?? Of course not! We need to start thinking about panels that we will sponsor or co-sponsor for the 2014 AEJMC conference in Montreal, Canada.

COMJIG is able to sponsor and/or co-sponsor six panels during a conference. We also have one refereed research paper slot and one scholar-to-scholar (poster session) slot. The paper and poster sessions will not be decided until next spring, but the panel proposals are due by Oct. 14. 

We need your ideas! Here are the criteria:
- Think about community journalism-focused panels that we can co-sponsor with other divisions, interest groups or commissions
- Keep in mind that we will be in Canada next year so international themes will be important
- Please recommend potential panelists when you propose a panel
- Contact me with your ideas by September 30

Because the Council of Divisions wants to encourage divisions and interest groups to collaborate on panels, it sponsors a meeting where programming folks from all of the groups discuss potential panels ideas face-to-face. There was such a meeting in D.C., so I have a list of possible panels to co-sponsor with other groups but these are not set in stone. We want your ideas for panels.

Here is the list of potential panel ideas for 2014 AEJMC conference, Montreal, Canada: 

- Panel focusing on virtual communities and their impact on journalism
Panel on open-access journals, since the Council of Divisions just approved the open-access journal “Community Journalism” as the official journal of COMJIG
- Panel on First Nation affairs journalists in Montreal 
Panel on the monetization of journalism and its effects on community newspapers/journalism
Panel on international communication and the development of community journalism across the globe
Panel idea on hyperlocal journalism in the U.S. and Canada
We also agreed to co-sponsor JLab Innovation luncheon for the 2014 conference

Again, please contact me with your ideas at garyantes@rowan.edu by September 30. 

All the best with the start of your fall semester.

August 19, 2013

Communtiy journallism and "big-city" TV: A case of corruption in West Virginia

This story from Columbia Journalism Review is about how a West Virginia TV station reported, using anonymous sources, that officials in a rural county were facing indictment while the local paper editorialized against naming names until the indictments.

The indictments have come down, and it provides an interesting teaching moment about the contrasts and the different frame in which community media operate.

August 13, 2013

Three more years! AEJMC Board renews COMJIG

The AEJMC Board of Directors met last week and approved the Community Journalism Interest Group for three more years. The current officers are obviously very pleased about this news. Below is the renewal request that was submitted to AEJMC, which summarizes what COMJIG has accomplished and where it is going.

COMJIG Request for Renewal with AEJMC
Presented to the AEJMC Board of Directors
July 15, 2013
Prepared by:
John Hatcher, outgoing head, University of Minnesota Duluth
Eileen Gilligan, incoming head, SUNY-Oswego
Dianne Garyantes, Vice head/programming, Rowan University
Letter of support, Jeremy Littau, Leigh University, outgoing head of Civic and Citizen Journalism Interest Group
Letter of support, Chad Stebbins, executive director of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors
Letter of support, Wilson Lowery, University of Alabama, graduate coordinator
Letter of support, Tommy Thomason, Texas Christian University, director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism
Letter of support, Al Cross, University of Kentucky, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism
Letter of support, Jock Lauterer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, director of the Carolina Community Media Project
COMJIG Annual Report, 2013
COMJIG Annual Report, 2012
COMJIG summary of programming 2011-2013
COMJIG Request for Renewal with AEJMC
A Google search using the words “community journalism” is really all that is needed to show just how much AEJMC’s Community Journalism Interest Group and its members have accomplished in 9 short years. Below the Wikipedia entry is screen after screen of entries that are either directly related to COMJIG – for example, the COMJIG blog, with its 260 entries and 24,003 page views – or programs and projects that have been undertaken by COMJIG members. Often these are projects borne from ideas that began in the COMJIG-sponsored events at AEJMC conferences over the years. Today, we can boast of numerous community journalism-focused programs at top journalism schools such as Ohio University, Texas Christian University and the University of Alabama. We have a new peer-reviewed journal, Community Journalism, which showcases community journalism research. And we have a growing network that closely connects students and faculty with journalism practitioners.
It’s likely COMJIG will never be a division of AEJMC, but we hope this document and the accompanying letters of support show that for a core group of scholars and educators, the energy found in this interest group has encouraged us to collaborate and work and to help make sure that AEJMC is recognized as a leader in a growing, international interest in community journalism: an intimate style of journalism that sees journalists as embedded in their community situation.
Mission and goals
We hope this report and the accomplishments of COMJIG and its members show how our work has been closely aligned with the Guiding Principles established in 2004:
·      To invigorate and inspire educators in community journalism by forming a national cohort of like-minded scholars sharing their ideas, findings and work on an annual basis.
·      To open a national dialogue on community journalism by creating a networking system and an annual focal point for educators in this field.
·      To foster, encourage and reward superior academic work in community journalism through an annual competition that would identify and showcase the best research papers and creative teaching ideas.
·      To move the field forward by supporting and affirming great teaching, publications and research in the field.
·      To stimulate new affiliations, research and publications by nurturing and mentoring young academics in the field.
·      To make a positive difference in the profession of community journalism by forging new partnerships and building new bridges between the academy and the profession, and by producing significant and practical research immediately useful to the profession.
Defining COMJIG
“What is community journalism?”
“How are you different from the Civic and Citizen Journalism Interest Group?”
Hopefully, the days when these questions were asked are behind us. While the members of COMJIG are keenly aware of our mission and focus, we realize that this is not always clear to those on the outside – much as it might be said these days for people trying discern how Electronic News might be different from the Newspaper and Online divisions. However, in perusing the mission laid out for this group in 2004, what we hope you will see is that the accomplishments and the goals outlined in this request align strongly with our mission.
As AEJMC’s Jennifer McGill told us recently, it was probably a bad idea for COMJIG to hold its member meetings jointly with the Civic and Citizen Journalism Interest Group. For the past two years, we have discontinued this practice. What’s more, CCJIG’s name change to the Participatory Journalism Interest Group will do even more to differentiate us. Further, we have included in this request a letter from PJIG’s outgoing head, Jeremy Littau, stating his own support for COMJIG as a separate entity.
At its core, COMJIG’s focus is on journalism produced by people who are members of the communities they serve. Historically, this has meant a strong focus on rural, print newspapers in geographically defined communities. However, as noted in numerous scholarly articles, books and elsewhere, the concept of community has been radically transformed with the growth of online communities. Our group continues to explore in its research and elsewhere how community journalism varies based on differences in ownership structure, culture, media type, community type.
A bit of background
In August of 2004, the current outgoing head of COMJIG, John Hatcher, was a fledgling doctoral student at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, when he attended AEJMC’s annual convention in Toronto. There, he ran into community journalism scholar Jock Lauterer, whom he had first met in his days at the now-defunct Center for Community Journalism based in SUNY Oswego. There’s a meeting tonight that I want you to come to, Lauterer said. It’s about community journalism and I want you there.
So, Hatcher went and he saw assembled many of the people who had, for years, worked on their own to study and connect with the niche of journalism that often was lost in discussions of larger media that cater to mass audiences. Lauterer, the group learned, had partnered with Peggy Kuhr to convince AEJMC to support the creation of a new Community Journalism Interest Group.
It’s hard to know for certain how different the academic landscape in the field of community journalism would be today without this effort, but there is no denying that since that time, interest in community journalism has exploded and COMJIG members have led the way. On a personal note, one of the authors of this report (John Hatcher, now a tenured associate professor) can attest that his research interests would likely have been pulled in a very different direction were it not for the mentoring and encouragement of the COMJIG family.
COMJIG’s recent accomplishments
Here, briefly, are some of the highlights in the field of community journalism COMJIG had been a part of, with a greater attention given to activities accomplished since COMJIG’s last renewal in 2010.
·      Peer-reviewed journal: The Texas Center for Community Journalism and COMJIG have agreed on a memorandum to make the peer-reviewed journal, Community Journalism, the official journal of COMJIG. This request is also before the AEJMC Board of Directors for its consideration this year.
·      Industry-faculty connection: This year, the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors gave a scholarship to COMJIG so its head, John Hatcher, could attend its annual convention free of charge. It was agreed that this should continue each year so that faculty with an interest in community journalism can connect with community journalism practitioners from around the world. This, in turn, will lead to encouraging faculty to share with students career opportunities related to community journalism – including newspaper ownership. Included in this request for renewal is a letter from ISWNE executive director Chad Stebbins voicing his support for COMJIG.
·      Programs with a community journalism focus: As the letters included with this request show, we have a strong bond with the many, new community journalism programs that have started in the United States even as we work to foster new interest in community journalism in other countries.
·      Conference programming with a focus on issues of diversity: We hope you will take a moment and review the attachment that gives an overview of the programming that COMJIG has worked to bring to AEJMC in the past three years. We think it shows a strong desire to explore the relationship between community type and journalism with a special emphasis on historically marginalized communities.
·      Encouraging community journalism research: For so many decades, community journalism has been relegated to the back of the room in divisions that are dominated by the voices of big media. With its own interest group and membership, COMJIG can showcase research in this area with a strong and direct emphasis on encouraging new scholars and educators to focus their work in this area of journalism. In 2012, Sage published Foundations of Community Journalism (Reader & Hatcher), a collected volume that has sold more than 400 copies and that includes contributions from many COMJIG members.
·      Internationally known blog: While some groups and divisions put out their obligatory newsletters, COMJIG’s blog has gained high acclaim as a starting point for scholars and others interested in learning more about community  journalism.  
·      Social media growth: Since launching its Facebook page in 2012, the COMJIG Facebook group has grown to 107 members as of the filing of this report. Coupled with our email listserve and our active blog, communication with our members and promoting our mission has become a daily activity.
COMJIG’s current projects
·      Roots Journalism Award: As noted in our annual report, this year we have created our first Roots Journalism Award, recognizing an educator who has made a significant contribution to community journalism. Going forward, we plan to create a committee that will review nominations for this award and more formalize the process.
·      Ten-year anniversary and an emphasis on community: The new officers of COMJIG have already begun discussion of how to properly mark COMJIG’s first decade as an interest group with a focus on defining community and its role in shaping journalism.
·      Diversifying membership: In spite of a great deal of programming devoted exploring community journalism produced by historically marginalized communities, it has been admittedly difficult to diversify our membership. We aren’t done trying. This year we hope to work with ISWNE to reach out to journalists and educators in both indigenous communities in the United States, Canada and Norway as well as journalists and educators in the developing nations of Africa.
·      More graduate level research: This year we intend to host a research session at the Southeast Colloquium to encourage more graduate students to submit work to COMJIG.

Membership trends
We are excited by our membership trends this year and we credit this to a greater emphasis on communicating with our members throughout the year. Even before the AEJMC conference registration push for this year, our numbers are already at 79, suggesting we are well on track to top last year’s figure of 80 as we move back upward toward our original numbers.
As Table 1 below suggests, there was a decline in membership between 2010 and 2011. AEJMC’s business manager Jenni Meyer told us that this followed a trend across AEJMC:What you see as your numbers have gone down has also happened to most every group. As we have added new groups to the mix, members have joined the new groups, and have often changed the second group they normally belonged to.”
Table 1: COMJIG membership trends
June 2013
September 2012
September 2011
September 2010
September 2009
September 2008
September 2007
(Source: AEJMC business manager Jenni Meyer)
*AEJMC’s database was down at the filing time for this report and this figure does not reflect membership increase included with 2013 conference registration.
COMJIG’s niche in AEJMC
In concluding, we hope you will take a minute and read the letters of support for COMJIG. We think they speak volumes about who we are and the role that we’ve played for AEJMC and its members. Even though we have a strong, core group of loyal members, we think it is unlikely that we will push for division status at any time. We believe strongly that the niche of journalism that we are focused on must have its own distinct voice within the larger body of AEJMC and hope that the AEJMC Board of Directors agrees.
It’s important to remember that the typically small news organizations that we focus our work on comprise what Ohio University’s Bill Reader has long called the “bottom of the iceberg” in the media landscape. In recent years, we’ve seen the top of that iceberg melt, to continue the analogy, while the community journalism landscape is flourishing in ways we could not have envisioned even in COMJIG’s short lifetime. Were COMJIG to vanish, the educators and scholars devoted to community journalism would continue to do their work, but we firmly believe some momentum would be lost without a central place for us to share our ideas and our passion.

Current and incoming officers
Current Officers:
·      Head: John Hatcher, Minnesota-Duluth 
·      Vice head/programming: Eileen Gilligan, SUNY-Oswego
·      Research chair: Dianne Garyantes, Rowan University
·      PF&R chair: Al Cross, Kentucky
·      Teaching standards chair: Andrea Frantz, Buena Vista
·      Secretary/membership: Dana Coester, West Virginia
·      Professional liaison: Barbara Selvin, Stony Brook
·      Graduate student liaison: Clay Carey, Ohio
·      Past head: Joe Marren, Buffalo State
Incoming officers
·      Head: Eileen Gilligan, SUNY-Oswego
·      Vice head/programming: Dianne Garyantes, Rowan
·      Research chair: Mark Poepsel, Loyola University New Orleans
·      PF&R chair: Al Cross, Kentucky
·      Teaching standards chair: Andrea Frantz, Buena Vista
·      Secretary/membership: Dana Coester, West Virginia
·      Professional liaison: Barbara Selvin, Stony Brook
·      Graduate student liaison: Clay Carey, Ohio
·      Past head: John Hatcher, Minnesota Duluth
Other Recent Past Heads:
·      Andris Straumanis, Wisconsin-River Falls
·      Doug Fisher, South Carolina
·      Liz Hansen, Eastern Kentucky
·      Bill Reader, Ohio
·      Peggy Kuhr, Montana
Founder/head emeritus: Jock Lauterer, North Carolina