August 17, 2008

Case Studies of Courage in Community Journalism: A thoughtful editor inspires

Those who attended the panel discussion, "Case Studies of Courage in Community Journalism," at this month's AEJMC convention were treated to an inspiring commentary from Laurie Ezzell Brown, left, editor of The Canadian Record. After giving her thoughtful and practical tests for the journalism she practices in the Texas Panhandle weekly, she said, "The hardest part of community journalism is also the most rewarding part. We live within what we write about. Either we know what we report, or we are called on the carpet within hours, if not minutes, to account for our mistakes. We look our stories in the face every day. We meet them eye to eye. And if we deny their humanity, if we feel no compassion, then we have failed to grasp the story’s essence, and will fail the story’s telling."

Brown concluded, "At a time when we hunger for authenticity, for words which have meaning in our lives, for stories which are of us, about us — not thrust upon us — community journalists have both the privilege and the responsibility of beginning at the very root of the human experience, and of lifting it up, bringing it to light. Well done — and God knows, I’ve seen it done poorly — this is an honorable profession ... and a necessary one ... and that is what I would tell young students today." To read Brown's full remarks, click here.

Also on the panel were Bernard Stein, until recently the editor and co-publisher of The Riverdale Press in the Bronx, who talked about the editorial that prompted a firebombing of his weekly and his current project at Hunter College-CUNY, a student-produced newspaper for one of New York's poorest neighborhoods; and Homer Marcum, who edited and published The Martin Countian in Inez, Ky. He talked about his experiences in the Appalachian coalfield and two of his neighbors and mentors, Tom and Pat Gish of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., who were unable to attend the convention but were featured in video about their famed 50-year career. For a detailed report on the panel, click here.

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