February 02, 2008

An exemplar of rural and community journalism changes, offering essential lessons in the craft

Examples of community journalism are easier to come by than a clear-cut definition of the term. For years, the Point Reyes Light in western Marin County, California, has been an exemplar. The weekly newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1979, for its coverage of the Synanon drug-rehabilitation group that turned into a religion, but well before that had established itself as an essential part of community life and function. That is less true today, and the change teaches lessons.

You may have read about the ownership and policy changes at the Light in “The Language of Strangers,” by Jonathan Rowe in the latest issue of Columbia Journalism Review. He makes good points about community journalism that are rarely seen in the pages of national journalism reviews. My graduate assistant, Tim Wiseman, and I did a little extra reporting on it, which you can read at www.RuralJournalism.org.

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