September 01, 2008

Minutes of the 2008 COMJIG meeting

The following are the draft minutes of the annual meeting of the Community Journalism Interest Group of AEJMC, 6:45 p.m., Thursday, August 7, 2008, Chicago, Ill. Minutes are unofficial until ratified at the 2009 annual meeting.

Members’ meeting
The members meeting began with a gathering of both the Community Journalism Interest Group members and members of the Citizen/Civic Journalism Interest Group. About 20 people were in attendance.
Bill Reader (Ohio University), outgoing chair of COMJIG, and Jack Rosenberry (St. John Fisher College), outgoing chair of CCJIG, proposed the idea of a collaborative project that would involve reaching out to daily newspapers in the U.S. to teach them how to effectively use both civic and community journalism in their news operations. The idea was proposed as a way of:
- raising the profile of the two interest groups
- putting members in touch with professionals in their regions
- allowing for conducting field research and as a way to get professors back into newsrooms to both study and refresh their skills

Bill Reader said that larger media are trying to embrace these concepts, but do not really know where to begin. They are seeing civic journalism organizations as competitors; they want to connect to community, but are not sure how. The idea proposed was to come up with short, three-hour training sessions with mid-level editors at these newspapers.

Discussion on this topic and the logistics of its execution continued for roughly 30 minutes. The question was raised as to whether this was something that members of both groups would like to pursue. Several members said they thought that newspapers would be interested in such programs. There was some discussion of previous models that had attempted these kinds of projects. Some questions were raised about whether these training visits would work best by visiting specific newsrooms or by hosting regional workshops. Brian Steffens, executive director of the National Newspaper Association, said newsroom budgets are making training efforts difficult. Bill Reader said that if 10 of these sessions could be completed in the next year, it would be outstanding. Another member explained a session done at his university that was a social media conference and has grown each year as people come to find out about citizen journalism and public relations. It had sponsors and grew to 300 in its most recent event. The next one will actually bring in money for the department.

Liz Hansen (Eastern Kentucky), outgoing vice chair of COMJIG, asked if the first step was to see if there was a demand for this kind of workshop and perhaps see if this can lead to the creation of a prototype for the training program. Another member said that the most exciting aspect of the program would be the creation of a curriculum that could be used by everyone. Discussion continued on topics including how this work would translate into research and how that research could be shared with people in the industry and whether such training could be given using online resources.

In summary, Bill Reader said that there did seem to interest in the idea, was unsure of who might take the lead on the project, but said a first step might be to see if there is a need and interest.

Several other topics were discussed during the general meeting including whether a Romenesko-like blog could be created for smaller newspapers, and whether such a thing could be done using the COMJIG blog. Another suggestion was made that an experts guide could be created by the incoming secretary of COMJIG that might include press releases when new research in community journalism was created.

The groups adjourned the group members' meeting and divided for their respective annual business meetings.

Business meeting

The minutes of the 2007 meeting were unanimously approved as submitted without comment or question.

Bill Reader reported that COMJIG had had a good year, and the annual report had been submitted. The AEJMC program was one of the best to date, including sessions including “profiles in courage” and a mini-plenary that was very strongly attended discussing the future of print journalism. He said next year’s programming should lean more toward research as a way of maintaining a balance. He said COMJIG members had been very active, including work of regional centers and institutes as well as work of independent scholars.

COMJIG has a current balance of $1,227.40.

The current membership is 110, with most members from the United States, but other members from Mumbai, Japan and China. A goal for the following year was to make the group more international and to explore panels that would look at the issue of community journalism in other countries. There was some discussion of how to make more international connections, including with neighboring Canada.

Bill Reader said that it would be useful to create a clearinghouse list of community journalism organizations and to enhance the list to get more international.

In all COMJIG had nine submissions of research papers, which was fewer than in 2007; five were accepted for presentation.

It was noted that AEJMC is re-examining its strategic plan, which means interest groups need to make themselves visible, partner with other organizations and make attempts to be more international.

Liz Hansen said there were many good submissions for panels from COMJIG members, but not enough spots for all of them.

There was no old business discussed.

Liz Hansen then took over running the meeting as the new Chair of COMJIG. She oversaw the election of new officers and opened the floor to nominations. She accepted the golden pica pole from Bill Reader.

Doug Fisher (South Carolina) was nominated by Bill Reader as Vice Chair and seconded by Al Cross (Kentucky). He was accepted by acclamation.

Bill Reader volunteered to occupy the position of Secretary and Membership Chair. He was accepted by acclamation.

Andris Straumanis (Wisconsin-River Falls) was nominated to keep his position as Research Chair. He was accepted by acclamation.

Jennifer Woods Adams (Auburn) was nominated to be the PF&R chair and was accepted by acclamation.

Eileen Gilligan was nominated to retain her position as Teaching Chair and was accepted by acclamation.

There was some discussion as to whether to raise the $5 dues for the group. After discussion, the group agreed to leave the dues at $5.

The group voted to add a cash prize to the top faculty paper award in 2009, to complement the $100 cash award we agreed in 2007 to give to the top student paper starting in 2008.

The group agreed that it would send out a call for research panels for the 2009 convention. It was suggested that a panel on research on community journalism and how that’s being done would be a useful discussion. It was also suggested that a panel on international aspects of community journalism would be useful.

A move to adjourn was made and seconded. All voted aye.

Minutes respectfully submitted by John Hatcher (Minnesota-Duluth), outgoing Secretary.

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