February 20, 2007

Send us summaries of your community journalism projects

Les Anderson at Wichita State University is teaching a fantastic feature writing class this semester. He’s got students on Broadway (in Wichita, that is), where they’re covering the length of this major roadway that bisects the city. He’s partnered with the local daily newspaper (the Eagle) and the public TV station.

We know many other Community Journalism educators are doing such projects around the country; and others are trying new and innovative projects that get students off campus and into their communities.

This is the kind of teaching project that fits our mini-plenary session topic at the AEJMC convention: “The Community as Teaching Resource.” The session is Thursday, Aug. 9, 3:15-4:45 p.m.

While we can cover only a handful of such projects in the mini-plen, we do want to compile many other community-based journalism projects into a booklet that we can provide to all who attend the session.

Tell us what classes you’re teaching that get students out of the classroom and into the community. COMJIG vice head Bill Reader will compile these for a booklet to be handed out at the convention (and that will be available as a download from our Web site). That means we want you to:

  • Write a one-page summary of your class (Word document or text only). Include any links, JPGs, PDFs, or other samples.
  • E-mail the summary and images to Bill Reader at reader@ohio.edu. Be sure to put "COMJIG" in the subject line.
  • Mark your calendar for the mini-plen. The session will include panelists and folks in the audience (like Les) who will share what they’ve done, and lessons they’ve learned. Plus, you’ll get a copy of the booklet.

As an example of a project summary, here's the rest of Les Anderson’s description of his class:

“My feature writing class is taking on Broadway, which is the main north/south street that runs through Wichita. It's actually Highway 81 and was one of the first streets built in Wichita. We're covering from the north edge of town (61st Street) to 47th South.

“We're working with The Eagle and KMUW, our public radio station in town. For The Eagle, we'll be writing/shooting stories for Kansas.com, or whatever its online site becomes with the switch from Knight-Ridder to McClatchy. The project will be called "On Broadway."

“Video, which is something The Eagle is just starting to include on its Web site, will be part of it. A Broadway blog is a possibility (we're waiting to hear). The idea is to involved the community in the stories.

“Broadway has become a mix/clash of cultures - African-American, Asian, Hispanic, white - with all sorts of businesses, restaurant, ethnic grocery stores. The street has changed over time from one of the most-frequented to one that most people avoid. South of Douglas, it's known for prostitution, cheap motels and used car lots. North, it's a mix of pawn shops, ethnic restaurants, railroad-switching yards and abandoned buildings. Two of my students, one with a video camera, will walk the entire route and write/report on it. Others are riding a shift with beat cops, riding the public bus routes.

“Students will be spending a lot of time on Broadway, getting to know the people, places, etc., and writing about them. Undergrads in the lass are mapping the area we're covering. Grad students are compiling a history segment that will be our kick-off piece with sidebars.

“After we started our project, one of the reporters at The Eagle put me onto two series the Lincoln newspapers has done on O Street and 27th Street. Their two series were similar, but the difference is that this is student-generated. Some of The Eagle folks also may be contributing to the project.

“I proposed the project to Sherry Chisenhall, editor of The Eagle, last fall. She has us working with Theresa Johnson, the ME; Jeff Butts, the online content editor; and Jean Hays, the metro editor. If we're able to pull it off, we'll also compile a 20- to 30-minute documentary on Broadway and/or the project for KPTS, the public TV station in Wichita.”

1 comment:

Doug Fisher said...

Focusing on communities is a great way to teach reporting. It provides structure that students need, I think, to make sense of all this. I did a summer reporting course focused on a little mill village neighborhood here in Columbia a couple of summers ago; it was the only way to get enough structure into a five-week reporting course. They began by profiling a business. They each student was assigned two blocks and had to profile the block (including its housing stock, which got them into the deeds register's office) and write a story about the issues of most concern and interest to its residents. Finally, they had to profile the most interesting person on that block.

Unfortunately, we did not have easy-to-update Web space at the time to showcase the work.