February 19, 2019

What is "local news"? The term gets thrown around...a lot...but nobody seems to define it

I saw earlier today that the Knight Foundation is contributing $300 million toward "rebuilding local news." I read the article published by Poynter. I was selfishly hoping to find a definition of "local news." It wasn't there. I see the term "local news" being tossed around a lot lately. It's become too ambiguous. I contend that at the grassroots level, audiences and media workers maintain a different meaning of the term than do their brethren who work for, follow, or study the larger media outlets.  I also think it's time to consider the following: What does "local news" mean in the emergent media era?

February 14, 2019

Make industry conversation about the future of community news part of class

     Continued news from the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local News about the expanding news desert should serve as a reminder for all who teach journalism about the importance of community news.
     The closing of community media outlets seems less of a concern in our classes the economics of the New York Times or the Washington Post. However, this quote from a Nieman Lab article suggests why should change.
      “Take 98 percent of whatever energy you devote to worrying about the future of the Times and rechannel it into worrying about your local daily, which is very likely approaching existential crisis,” Benton wrote.
      Yet, in my own classes at an undergraduate and graduate student discussion in class focuses on publications that are nationally known, not those who serve communities isolated from other press coverage. Those of us teaching the next generation of journalist owe it to our students to ensure they understand the industry they will enter.
       Additionally, the recent comments by former New York Times Editor Jill Abramson should serve as a stark reminder about how those who focus on the elite publications miss the changes that occur throughout the industry. Her comment about the closing of community newspaper shows a gross lack of understanding and oversimplification about the industry.
      Although the Poynter article written about Abramson’s statements effectively talks about the challenges facing community journalism and how it has changed.  
      Everyone who teaches journalism should look at these developments and remember why we focus upon these small publications. Many of our students will begin their careers in these towns, working for community media and the reduction of these publications will have a sizable impact on the job opportunities for those we teach.
      My hope is that at AEJMC in Toronto we can begin a conversation about how to talk about integrating community journalism into curriculums throughout the country.

February 06, 2019

Partnerships between community newspapers and local nonprofits

The news site 100 Days in Appalachia recently featured an interesting piece by Larry "Bud" Meyer about Foothills Forum, a small-scale journalism nonprofit in rural Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Meyer co-founded Foothills Forum, he writes, because local residents hungered for news that the local newspaper didn't always have the staff or resources to pursue. Meyer writes:

So, after a year of listening – interviews and focus groups with more than 100 citizens – we promised to commission high-quality explanatory journalism in conjunction with the weekly. We believed the community would support an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit by opening their wallets, even if they were skeptical about what they’d be getting. Foothills also pledged to live up to the “forum” part of the name by bringing folks together in our fire halls and churches to discuss the issues as reported and what could be done about them.
Instead of competing with the local newspaper, however, Foothills Forum set out to partner with it, working together to earn reader trust and push for substantive change. 

The story, which you can read here, is an interesting case study in collaboration between a community newspaper and a hyperlocal community group. If you know of similar collaborations - particularly in rural communities - please mention them in a comment on this post. 

January 25, 2019


I know you are extremely busy, but I would like to invite you to help serve as one of the Community Journalism Interest Groups research paper reviewers for AEJMC Toronto 2019.

If reviewing for the COMJIG is something you are interested in helping with, all you need to do is go now to the All-Academic site through the AEJMC website or to this address https://convention2.allacademic.com/one/aejmc/aejmc19/ and create an account (username and password) in the All-Academic SystemGo to the right side of the page and scroll down until you come to Click here to create new username and password.”

AEJMC requests that you create your account by Friday, March 8, 2019This will allow for assignments of papers to proceed quickly and you will have immediate access to your assigned papers to judge soon after the All-Academic system closes for paper uploading.
Creating your user name and password now will also allow you to submit, judge and download papers all from the same created accountYou will not be able to view anything yet with All-Academic, but creating your user name and password will allow us to complete the process of updating the site for the Toronto, Canada 2019 Paper Competition.  Each year is unique, and if you created an account last year, you will need to do so again this year.

Thank you for assisting the Community Journalism Interest Group of AEJMCYour input is invaluableIf you have any questions, please feel free to contact meI look forward to working with you this year.



Research Paper Competition Chair

Christina C. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication
Georgia College and State University

January 24, 2019

Howard Berkes, NPR's champion of rural reporting, is retiring

Nice sit-down in the Weekly Yonder with NPR's Howard Berkes and his take on journalism, rural areas, and the regulatory failures in the coal industry as he heads to retirement.

Berkes led the way in showin how national news orgs should report on that "other" America. He deserves a solid retirement, but kinda sad to see him go. He's a solid journalist.

I'd love to see us somehow get him on a panel.

January 22, 2019

NRJ's Dane S. Claussen encourages more commj scholarship to be accepted by journals (beyond Community Journalism)

Hi, all.

In a recent exploration of the 2018 scholarship on community journalism, I stumbled upon this little gem titled, "Talking and thinking about community newspapers at "Radically Rural"" by Newspaper Research Journal's Editor Dane S. Claussen.

I was particularly drawn to it because of of the reference to weekly papers. The overall argument is that there is a need for more scholarship that focuses on the smaller, non-daily newspapers to be recognized/published/accepted by some of the more wider-scope journals, including Newspaper Research Journal (beyond Comnunity Journalism) -- which I know many of us are trying to do just that.

Here's the link to the text: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0739532918810736.

December 12, 2018

COMJIG announces AEJMC 2019 paper call

The Community Journalism Interest Group invites scholarly submissions from faculty and graduate students for paper and poster sessions to be presented at the 2019 AEJMC national conference in Toronto, Canada. The papers should advance theory and/or practice in community/local journalism and can use a variety of methods and approaches. The deadline for paper submissions is April 1, 2019. 
Scope: The concept of community has expanded to more than just a group defined by physical proximity. In the digital age, communities also are defined by the strength of social relationships amongst individuals and the interests that bring them together, irrespective of their geographic location. COMJIG encourages submissions that address this diversity within and about communities and the role journalism plays in reporting about as well as informing these communities. Research topics may include, but are not restricted to:
·       How and if news organizations—print and digital-- fulfill a community’s critical
information needs
·       How news organizations build audiences within their communities with or without
use of technologies such as social media
·       Audience engagement with local/community news
·       How community newspapers thrive or struggle to survive in present times and changes,
if any, in community journalistic practices in the digital age
·       How journalism entrepreneurs juggle advertising with community news reporting
·       The effects of the closure of community news outlets—print and online
— on communities, specifically those in news deserts
·       Conceptual ideas that push the meaning and our understanding of community
in new directions
·       Conceptual ideas that explore the meaning and interpretation of “local news”
in a global era
Awards: The Group awards top papers in the faculty and student categories. The authors of these papers will be invited to publish their manuscripts to COMJIG’s official, peer-reviewed publication, Community Journalism. Others also are encouraged to send their work to the journal for consideration.
Submission guidelines:
Format: Paper submissions should include a 100 to 150-word abstract and should not exceed 8000 words, including references, tables and notes. All papers should conform to APA style, Sixth edition. Papers must be typed in 12-point font using Times New Roman and paper text must be double-line spaced with 1-inch margins around each page. The pages should be continuously numbered. References must be provided. Tables or figures can be included within or at the end of the paper. An author can submit more than one paper to COMJIG but no more than two manuscripts. All submissions will be subjected to a blind peer review. 
Author Identification: All authors and co-authors should include their information when registering on the online system. It is the author’s responsibility to ensure that no identifying information is included anywhere in the paper or the properties section of the pdf document or it will be disqualified from the conference. Thus, authors are encouraged to submit early to fully check their submissions in the system for self-identifying information and any other technical glitches so they can resubmit their manuscripts, if necessary, before the system closes on deadline. Please follow the directions provided in “submitting a clean paper” section under the uniform paper call on the AEJMC website. 
Student Submissions: Graduate students are encouraged to submit papers to the group. Student authors should clearly mark their papers by including the phrase “STUDENT SUBMISSION” on the title page to be considered for the student paper competition. These papers should be authored by students only and not include any faculty co-authors.
Uploading Manuscripts: The papers should be submitted to COMJIG via a link on the AEJMC website. Please see the AEJMC’s paper competition uniform call for more information.
Presentation Requirement: For the manuscript to be considered for presentation in the panel or poster session at the conference, at least one of the authors must attend in person to talk about the research. An exception may be made for papers with ONLY student authors; if the graduate students are unable to attend, then they must arrange for someone else to present the research on their behalf.
Questions, Concerns, Clarifications? Please contact COMJIG Research Committee Chair Christina Smith, assistant professor of communication at Georgia College and State University, at christina.smith1@gcsu.edu.

November 05, 2018

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Huck Boyd/ISWNE "Strengthening Community News" paper call

ISWNE and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media are extending until MondayNov12 the deadline for submitting two-page proposals for the 2019 “Strengthening Community News Competition,” which seeks research that will benefit the newsrooms of community weeklies and similar publications.  Authors of accepted proposals will be invited to submit completed research papers (2,500-6,000 words) by April 1, 2019, for peer review and publication, by January of 2020, in Grassroots Editor. In addition, the author of the top paper will receive a scholarship to attend the 2019 ISWNE conference in Atlanta, and present the paper there. 

The full paper call can be found here.

October 15, 2018

Don't forget ICA deadline

Deadline season is upon us, as many of us rush to meet the International Communication Association deadline for November 1, and/or the BEA deadline on December 1.

The one deadline that I wanted to bring to your attention is a call for a grant proposal that focuses on the expertise of many members in our community: local news.

The call is around the corner-- October 19, 2018-- but is a great opportunity to get involved in local news innovation. Details below:

The 2018 PILOT Innovation Challenge is a call to creative students, faculty, professionals with good ideas to apply for a grant up to $30,000. The challenge question this year is: What is an innovative way broadcasters and other local media could serve communities?

The organizers are awarding prizes (one each) of #30,000, $25,000 and $20,000 and three prizes in the amount of $15,000.

Winners also will be mentored by industry leaders and provided with opportunities to network with professionals from the field. Six finalists will be brought to Seattle to present their projects to industry executives on January 27, 2019 and the NAB show in Las Vegas in April 2019.
Of last year's six finalists, three were academic faculty members from Ohio University, University of Maryland and University of Colorado Boulder.

The deadline for submitting ideas is October 19 at 5 pm (eastern time). 

October 12, 2018

Interesting read: How skillsets of local, national journalists are diverging

This was an interesting read from Nieman Reports in the past week:

The Great Disconnect: How Journalists at Local and National Outlets Are Evolving Different Skill Sets

Definitely some things to think about here for journalism education.

Al Cross on NPR on key Ky. congressional election

Good to hear COMJIG's Al Cross on NPR's "Morning Edition" today discussing one of the midterm election's hot contests, Kentucky's 6th District congressional race.


September 14, 2018

ISWNE, Huck Boyd issue call for applied research on community journalism

The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at Kansas State University are seeking proposals for papers that provide insight and guidance on general issues and/or everyday problems confronting community newspapers and their newsrooms.

This competition is an extension of the center’s former “Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium,” co-sponsored by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) and its foundation and presented for 20 years at NNA conventions. It is an effort to promote “conversations in community journalism” between academicians and journalists working for community newspapers.

Proposals will be peer-reviewed by faculty with expertise in community journalism and final selection of the papers to be written will be made by a panel of working and retired community journalists who will evaluate the proposals on the basis of their potential value to newsrooms. Completed papers will undergo a final peer review prior to publication in an issue of ISWNE’s quarterly journal Grassroots Editor.

One paper will be selected for presentation at the 2019 ISWNE conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The ISWNE Foundation will provide the author with complimentary registration for that conference, as well as a partial subsidy for travel. Proposals from graduate students are encouraged.

A second paper also will be published in Grassroots Editor, with its author invited to write a brief (400-500 word) summary for the ISWNE Newsletter. The authors of both top papers will also received complementary one-year memberships in ISWNE. 

The deadline for proposals is Nov. 1, 2018. The full call for proposals and instructions for authors can be found here