You may have caught eyefuls throughout our entries about our belief that there must be physical bureaus to accompany this community news projects. It’s about meeting people where they are, bringing the tools to where people live, we believe. One of our grant commitments was to seed four bureaus in various parts of the city to diversify voices on The Rapidian. Our first to launch is the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities with the GAAH Press Club. The cubs have submitted their bios and first two pieces, a video interview with Miss Steffanie (GAAH program director) and their review of traveling Broadway show Grease. Excitingly, the troop’s second submission has a Spanish-language twin to keep it company on The Rapidian.
Truly worthwhile reads, I promise:
Additional coverage of the bureau on The Rapidian:
The story is about the conception and ambitions of the only Spanish language community choir in Grand Rapids. In the past, Marjorie Kuipers, director of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities (parent org of Cook Arts Center), has mentioned that they expect this to be very popular in the community.
Lindsay’s piece is especially wonderful as many households in neighborhoods surrounding Grandville Avenue are predominantly Spanish speaking, single-language homes. Here’s to helping them get the word out!
Something I get really excited about when it comes to The Rapidian is how we can think outside of the box. Our contribution base is a mishmash of backgrounds, talents, passions and publishing experience. Every once in a while, we get calls from timid but enthusiastic newbies asking if we think they’d meet our quality standards (answer: we work with everyone). But honestly, that’s where we draw our strength. In the current upheaval, there’s also room to rethink how to present news.
What’s exciting about having a base not conditioned by years in the field is that they are unfettered to re-envision news presentation. Cases in point:
So much potential! Cin-cin to more creative coverage in 2011!
Fascinating! We’ve partnered with a professor at nearby Grand Valley State University who is having his professional writing students try their hand at dynamic web publishing.
Leading up to the assignment, students are blogging their ruminations on assigned reading and actually applying it to The Rapidian. Demographics, social and cultural reading environments, audience’s values… We’ve long suspected but never had the time to map it out. Their perception is incredible feedback for us and neatly categorized to boot.
Read all four analyses (group 3 did an especially nice job):
Some other highlights:
Grand Rapids is not that big, but such an open-ended writing prompt can make this city seem enormous. Our class alone will add something like forty new articles to the base of stories about this town of little more than 200.000. It’s pretty cool, and with so many articles being generated we can really know what is going down in GR. Hopefully we won’t get picked on for talking about ourselves too much…
So now I’m faced with a challenge unlike any other class assignment I’ve had so far: writing a piece that I can’t take for granted will be read. I have to admit, it’s a strange situation to find myself in. As I’m sure many others have, I’ve assumed having an audience interested in what I write. But this challenge also presents an exciting opportunity—finding an opening to fill that will get readers interested in my piece.
We miss you, Drew!
We’re not certain whether this is the beginning of a new tradition in Grand Rapids’ daily paper, but three of our contributors’ pieces were reprinted in Wednesday’s edition of The Grand Rapids Press.
The teaser with our logo on the front page led readers to A17, brimming with Rapidian content and not an advert in sight. The Press had been in open communication with us about collaborating prior to this printing.
Since one of The Rapidian’s goal is to increase the flow of news and dialogue in our community, we see this as a positive. The Press has a different audience from The Rapidian, and its print audience is likely a different crowd from even their online audience (The Press does regularly push their readers to us in link aggregations and regular blog posts like this one from Troy Reimink). Over 50% of traffic coming to The Rapidian is via social media, and recent findings by Facebook’s media team supports that this sort of lifting exposes new audiences to The Rapidian.
The natural question that comes up would probably be along the lines of how do we feel about The Press lifting content? How does this affect professional journalism? The short of it, I don’t expect the Citizen Journalists Chronicle to be a regular thing if it does become a tradition. For one thing, however much staff may try to seed stories, citizen reporting is not predictable, as story ideas bubble up from community members. You can figure out from there why it wouldn’t have a big impact on job security for professional journalists.
This shouldn’t in any way be read as a blanket statement for free content, but in general, I’m a big proponent of the concept of a local media ecosystem. Every media outlet has things they do well, and when we supplement, are in open communication with one another and try to reduce redundancy, we serve our public better.
Last Thursday, I pinwheeled through the freeways separating our city from that tall bold slugger known as Chicago. It was the first Block by Block summit (BxB), a conference organized by Michele McClellan of the Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellows Program. Michele had gathered about 100 participants, mostly locally focused, digital journalism projects similar to The Rapidian.
The various media outfits took it as a chance to feel out the terrain and establish some sort of standard to measure ourselves against. There were several community foundations, universities and tech organizations interested in supporting the swell of hyperlocal coverage, and projects in attendance fell into three broad categories with hybrids in between:
As the first digital journalism conference convening such a diverse crowd, it was fascinating to see how our various understandings lined up. Each definition had many striations.
It was fascinating to see how The Rapidian fit into this landscape. So many projects are a response to community needs that we sometimes forget that each place is different. Grand Rapids is community-oriented and abounds in philanthropy and willing volunteers, not something every big city can brag about. If I wanted to explain a certain initiative, I had to first make clear where we were coming from.
This first BxB was a good starting point for community information providers to see and paint out the digital media spectrum. I’m certain that by the second BxB, we’ll all be ready to take it several steps further.
Truth: I’m an impassioned participant on this subject. Andrew Huff and Mary Turck presented on working with volunteer contributors, and it’s the bread and butter of The Rapidian, a civic media site that relies entirely on user-generated content. You might as well have called me Hermione. “Oh, oh!” “Yes, Ms. Granger?” I’ll keep it to a minimum, but here are the takeaways, peppered with my observations.
As user-generated content sites, Andrew and Mary’s publications have really been around the block. Since 2003, about 300 volunteer staffers have walked through Gapers Block‘s doors, and the publication now hovers around 100 volunteer staffers with eight editors at the helm.
Twin Cities Daily Planet is just two years GB’s minor. Its reporter base comprises interns, volunteers, freelancers and professionals, but ultimately, Mary doesn’t grant special privileges based on these distinctions.
Together, Mary and Andrew focused on working with volunteer reporters and untrained writers. The key takeaways from the breakout session can be charted into four broad points.
Read the rest at the Block by Block blog
Today, we had our first open gathering of the summer at the Grand Central Market. We called it an ice cream social, taking it at face value that if you’re sitting in GCM where munchies abound, you’ll naturally want to indulge in ice cream, gelato, sorbet or a good sammich.
Attendance was at a solid 15, and as the discussion continued, it became more intimate. We had framed the social as a discussion with guest facilitator Ian Storey, a Ph. D. candidate at Colorado State University who looks at citizen journalism and political economy.
The goal was to show our reporters the other side of the citizen journalism coin: The observers and academics. However, due to faulty directions on my part, Ian didn’t make it.
We switched gears. Topics ranged from The Rapidian under review by the Knight Foundation to perceptions of the term “citizen journalist” to The Rapidian’s currency when reporters try to land interviews.
Several things that came out of this:
What we learned from today is we need to create a resource page for reporter FAQs, from advice when stories are shelved to how to deal with prior review. This wouldn’t just be for the reporters. It would also give inquiring interview subjects an idea of reporter obligations (we say this loosely because ultimately, every contributor is a free agent, and The Rapidian is the platform).
Upon mentioning the $10K, our attendees immediately clobbered the issue. Gem of the day: We’re blessed with talented and willing volunteers.