Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

What the !@#$ is a community journalist

I’m getting pretty close to graduating, and so have been trolling the journalism job sites looking at job descriptions and employers. One of the job titles I see pop up pretty often is that of “community journalist.”

Now hold on a second…isn’t a journalist supposed to report on the happenings of his or her community? Isn’t that the whole point?

From a job description:

We cover stories ranging from local government to business profiles, features and school news, all with an eye toward real people. Our style is to engage our readers in solving community problems.

Yup, that’s what journalists do.

Another one:

This newspaper’s award-winning staff has gained national attention during the past year for its commitment to putting “community” back into journalism, and building a newspaper that its customers consider a “must read.”

When did community ever leave journalism? Is this a reaction to the hyper-local discussion?
Every journalist is reporting on a community. Be it a neighborhood, a city, county, state, country, these are all communities.

Buzzwords are silly.

  • I think it is a reaction to the hyper-local, lets get back in touch with the one area that nobody else can cover as well as we can because we’re right here on the ground, trend.

    I saw a position on the side of Poynter this weekend seeking a community journalist for a major metro. It’s why you’re seeing some papers scale back their coverage area, so they can kick butt on the turf they do cover. And MOJOs? The idea is to not just work a beat but embed yourself in the community and look for those untold stories you can only see by being there.

    It’s also why at my paper, for instance, most days of the week we run an all-local front. Not that there aren’t major national stories, but really, by the time our paper hits the stoop, you’ve probably caught that news from CNN or Google News, or even our own Web site’s AP news updates. People don’t pick up a “community paper” to read what the AP says about Iraq, and we don’t have the manpower to put our own reporters there. They want to know why their property tax bills are late, whether the person who robbed the bank in their neighborhood was caught, and which of their friends’ kids made killer plays on the field last night. So, you focus on what you can do and only you can do best. You cover the hell out of your own community and you hire reporters who get and appreciate that.

    To paraphrase a recent job candidate when I asked him about where all he was applying and what type of job he was looking for, “You can do NYTimes quality work at the community level.” In fact, you should be. Someone in the middle of nowhere deserves to have their stories told just as much and just as well as anyone else.

    I understand your question, though, in terms of the name of the position. Just think of it as GA (general assignment) with a new name to tip you off to the fact that instead of national foreign policy, you’ll be reporting on local gas or crop prices or how that foreign policy actually impacts your own residents. Because that’s what people look to the local paper to provide.

  • I think it is a reaction to the hyper-local, lets get back in touch with the one area that nobody else can cover as well as we can because we’re right here on the ground, trend.

    I saw a position on the side of Poynter this weekend seeking a community journalist for a major metro. It’s why you’re seeing some papers scale back their coverage area, so they can kick butt on the turf they do cover. And MOJOs? The idea is to not just work a beat but embed yourself in the community and look for those untold stories you can only see by being there.

    It’s also why at my paper, for instance, most days of the week we run an all-local front. Not that there aren’t major national stories, but really, by the time our paper hits the stoop, you’ve probably caught that news from CNN or Google News, or even our own Web site’s AP news updates. People don’t pick up a “community paper” to read what the AP says about Iraq, and we don’t have the manpower to put our own reporters there. They want to know why their property tax bills are late, whether the person who robbed the bank in their neighborhood was caught, and which of their friends’ kids made killer plays on the field last night. So, you focus on what you can do and only you can do best. You cover the hell out of your own community and you hire reporters who get and appreciate that.

    To paraphrase a recent job candidate when I asked him about where all he was applying and what type of job he was looking for, “You can do NYTimes quality work at the community level.” In fact, you should be. Someone in the middle of nowhere deserves to have their stories told just as much and just as well as anyone else.

    I understand your question, though, in terms of the name of the position. Just think of it as GA (general assignment) with a new name to tip you off to the fact that instead of national foreign policy, you’ll be reporting on local gas or crop prices or how that foreign policy actually impacts your own residents. Because that’s what people look to the local paper to provide.

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