August 17, 2019

Potential bias tops worries over news consolidation

An interesting read from Nieman Lab.

When it comes to the consolidation of local news companies, American worry a lot more about political bias than about newsroom cutbacks

August 09, 2019

Happy 15th birthday, COMJIG

Today marks a special day for COMJIG.

it was 15 years ago that about 25 of us, led by the indefatigable Jock Lauterer, gathered in a poorly lit coferece room at Toronto's Sheraton Centre to form the Communty Journalism Interest group of AEJMC.

Fittingly, we are back at the Sheraton Toronto this year.

With recent develoments in journalism, the need for COMJIG has never been greater.

I hope you'll try to attend today's (Friday's) research session (4:45 p.m. in the Cedar Room - mezzanine). If you can't make that, come by the business meeting at 6:30 in the same room to wish COMJIG a hapy birthday and many more. - Doug Fisher

August 05, 2019

If you are attending AEJMC Toronto this wee, I hope you can attend one, maybe all, COMJIG events:

July 18, 2019

Call for 2020 proposals - ISWNE/Huck Boyd Competition: Strengthening Community News

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 that confront community newspapers and their newsrooms, with particular reference to weekly general-interest publications with circulations under 10,000.
This competition is an extension of the Center’s former “Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium,” co-sponsored for 20 years by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) and its foundation. It aims to engage academicians and community newspaper journalists in productive “conversations about community journalism.”
Proposals will be peer-reviewed by faculty with expertise in community journalism.  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. The schedule has been set up to ensure publication of all accepted papers by January 2021.
Proposals from graduate students are especially encouraged, as are proposals with an international focus, or reflecting an international perspective on community papers’ newsrooms.
The full call for proposals can be found here

July 12, 2019

Academic poster sesions

With academic conference season in full swing and AEJMC around the corner, a revisit to this lengthy and thoughtful post (also read the comments) is worth our time ...

July 01, 2019

Vindicator closure a worrisome sign for community media

On a date when many in the journalism world focused on the newspaper merger in New Orleans that resulted in the loss of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, there was another development that hit me much closer to home.
The Youngstown Vindicator had just celebrated 150 years of operation. It was family operated. It had a union newsroom where reporters received reasonable salaries. It was active on digital platforms. Ownership was active in the publication, in fact, the owner was there nearly every day. The paper won many awards in statewide competitions. Yet, the Vindicator still closed.
I have a personal connection to The Vindicator having worked there early in my career in academia going from the newsroom to adjunct teaching and back during breaks in the calendar. Many people I consider friends lost found out they will no longer have jobs at the end of August.
The closing of the Vindicator means that a city of 65,000 in a county of about 240,000 people will have no daily newspaper. In a city that has a history of corruption, the media will be manned by two television stations with news programs.
Poynter brought up one of the more shocking elements of the closing. The Vindicator had been on the sale block of two years and no companies were willing to buy, even at a reduced price.
However, not everything in Youngstown is without hope. There have been conversations occurring on social media about potential options. There is some hope that the Warren Tribune-Chronicle will expand to provide more coverage of Youngstown and Mahoning County. This seems unlikely since recent weekend editions of the Vindicator had less than 10 inches of advertising.
Another option that has been proposed is the creation of a small web-based publication that is behind a hard paywall. I’m skeptical of this option because of the suggestion that all reporters are paid as contracted stringers.
Finally, there has been some mention about the creation of a non-profit publication possibly connected with Youngstown State University. While this may be a tenable option, unless a wealthy donor provides seed money there would be significant time with significantly reduced local news coverage in Youngstown until grant funding can be secured or smaller donations collected.
The Youngstown Press Club has gotten involved having a meeting about the future of Youngstown News. Yet, Vindicator Managing Editor Mark Sweetwood showed skepticism on his podcast about the meeting.
“The first thing I’d ask is how many of them are current Vindicator subscribers,” Sweetwood said.
Now as I head into the completion of a summer semester and prepare to teach students about the business of journalism, I find myself at a loss. How do I describe the demise of the Vindicator while still leaving students with hope?
The online conversation shows an interested in news in Youngstown. So maybe it’s possible that the loss of the Vindicator may provide us a guideline for how community news can evolve without any legacy models.
I’m rooting for Youngstown to find a model that will work. The people of the Mahoning Valley need watchdogs.

June 13, 2019

COMJIG's paper presentations announced for AEJMC 2019 Toronto

Hi, all.

Below are the details for COMJIG paper presentations at AEJMC 2019 in Toronto. The final AEJMC 2019 conference schedule should soon be released. In addition to the paper presentations, COMJIG will host and co-host several panel sessions during the conference. The COMJIG business meeting will follow Friday's paper session. The social will follow the business meeting. 

Thursday, August 8
5 to 6:30 p.m. / T000                                                     Place TBA
Graduate Student Interest Group, Newspaper and Online New Division and Community Journalism Interest Group
Scholar-to-Scholar Refereed Research (Poster) Session
Theme — Varied Perspectives: News Deserts and News Framing
African-American Online Newspapers’ Coverage of Policy Debate
on the Affordable Care Act in 2017
            Masudul Biswas, Loyola Maryland
and Nam Young Kim, Sam Houston State
Signal Interruption in Baldwin City: Filling a Communication Vacuum
in a Small-Town “News Desert”
            Steve Smethers, Samuel Mwangi
and Bonnie Bressers, Kansas State

Monica Chadha, Arizona State


Friday, August 9
4:45 to 6:15 p.m. / F000                                                             Place TBA
Community Journalism Interest Group
Refereed Paper Session
Community Journalism Interest Group Top Papers

Rich Johnson, Creighton

“Life is Harder:” The Perceived Impact of a Newspaper Closure on a Community**
            Nick Mathews, Minnesota
It’s Who You Know: Twitter, Media Trust, and Local News*
            Ivy Ashe, Ryan Wallace and Tom Johnson, Texas at Austin
A Sense of Community at NPR Member Stations and Its Influence on Giving
            Joseph Kasko, Winthrop
VR as Community News Solution – Connecting Communities, Helping
Audiences Trust Community Journalists More with Immersive Technology
            Aaron Atkins, Hans Meyer and Samantha Peko, Ohio

Michael Clay Carey, Samford

*           Top Faculty Paper
**         Top Student Paper

May 17, 2019

Cultural geography and community journalism

Hello. I hope this post finds everyone well.

Can anyone recommend some foundational and/or contemporary scholarship on community journalism through the interpretive lens of cultural geography? I have the foundations of cultural geography as it relates to media in the larger context, but I am having a really hard time finding literature applying the theoretical perspective to community journalism, specifically weekly newspapers. Any leads would be helpful. I have a couple of pieces, but am wondering if there is more out there.

If you are aware of this literature, please email me your thoughts, guidance at

Thank you for your time.


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 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