Congratulations are due to a Connecticut newspaper and some mainstream editors for recognizing the importance of including citizens in the news-gathering process.
At a meeting in Denver, Colo., last week, the Associated Press Media Editors awarded their annual innovation award to the Register Citizen of Torrington, Conn., for its Open Newsroom Project.
While the newspaper deserves major kudos, the mainstream editors also should be applauded for their acceptance of the Register Citizen’s pioneering efforts to encourage citizen journalists and bloggers, and open the paper’s doors to the community.
Among the innovative concepts incorporated into Open Newsroom Project are a community media lab with workstations for local bloggers, a community classroom, a newsroom Café and open archives. The paper actually encourages community participation and even offers a live-stream of its daily editorial meetings.
As a promoter of citizen journalism and citizen journalism training, my two favorite parts of the project, launched in December 2010, are the community media lab and community classroom.
According to its write-up of the lab, “The difference between our approach and similar efforts in the past is that we do not seek to ‘own’ or control their content. We are just linking to and helping promote the work bloggers are doing on topics or in neighborhoods that we don’t have the resources to cover.
“They get the ‘fire hose’ of our audience traffic directed at their site, and we get to offer a more comprehensive package of local news and information to our readers via aggregation and curation of outside work.”
The Register Citizen also has a full-time editor who works with and trains local bloggers.
But the paper has done even more. It has built a classroom in its newsroom, where it holds classes and workshops on technology, writing and journalism – all of which are open to the public and live-streamed on the web.
Again, according to its write-up, members of the newspaper’s staff were sitting alongside local bloggers, residents and even local public officials at a series of classes on the Freedom of Information Act.
How cool is that?
So, I’d like to add my congratulations to the Register Citizen for a job well done. I look forward to hearing about its continued success and hope similar open newsroom projects start popping up across the country.
Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/om).