September 21, 2012

Message from new head: Help me build community in the COMJIG

This August, Joe Marren, past head of the Community Journalism Interest Group, handed me the Golden Pica Pole, signifying my new role as this year’s head.

It’s intriguing to me that this pole (one online reference describes it as a “a relic of the vanished hot type era”) is the symbol of leadership of our group. I used one when I was a city editor at a small daily newspaper in Upstate New York in the 1990s. But, I think our interest group needs to actively recruit members who might not have any idea what a pica pole is. The definition of community has changed; the concept of journalism has changed. And, if our group doesn’t also continue to evolve, we risk becoming as obsolete as the pica pole that hangs on my office wall.

In truth, I know, from the COMJIG-sponsored panels I attended this year at AEJMC, and from looking at our new list of members (we have 77 now), that our interest group is comprised of active, lively scholars and teachers of journalism who are excited by the transformation of our particular niche of journalism. Suddenly, everyone wants to study community journalism.

What hasn’t changed, I fear, is the perception of our group from the outside. To do that is going to take a concerted effort from all of us. We need to share what we’re doing, what we’re thinking about and what we’re reading.

We need to build our community.

By definition, we should be good at this. To get this work going, here is a list of some ways COMJIG officers are trying to build on the work of those who came before us along with specific ways that you can help us:

An official peer-reviewed journal for the interest group: The amazing team at the Texas Center for Community Journalism launched the peer-reviewed journal, Community Journalism, this year. At COMJIG’s members meeting in Chicago, we voted unanimously to explore how we can work to make this the official journal of our interest group. COMJIG officers and the editors of CJ are well on our way toward making this happen. We are drafting a memorandum of understanding and then will send that out to our members so we can vote on whether to make this relationship official. AEJMC will then vote on whether to officially approve this request.

Facebook page: Last year, we launched a Facebook page to share information about our group both with our members and with people interested in learning more about community journalism. To date, we have 74 people who like us. If you are not one of them, please join us and contribute to the discussion.

Listserve: Our members’ listserve is run through Yahoo! The email address is You can use this email address to communicate with all of our members who have subscribed. If you’d like to join the listserve, contact Doug Fisher at

Blog: COMJIG’s main method of communication has been our blog where you can access information about what our interest group is up to as well as read posts about research and activity relevant to those with a passion for community journalism. Please consider contributing your own ideas.

Panel proposals: Our deadline for panel proposals for AEJMC’s 2013 convention is quickly approaching. Please give some thought to the kind of panels you’d like to see us host next year at AEJMC and consider submitting a panel idea that you would like to coordinate and present.

Encourage submissions: Perhaps one of our top priorities should be increasing the awareness of the impressive research being done under the umbrella of community journalism. Many of our refereed papers have gone on to publication in top tier journals but we still need to do much more to increase our presence in this area. Please consider submitting your papers to COMJIG, telling your colleagues to do the same and also to encouraging graduate students to conduct community journalism research and to send it our way.

Hopefully, this post is the start of a conversation. What else should we be doing?

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