Join the Participatory Journalism party, as part of the Missourian’s community outreach team

Interested in taking J4700/7700, Participatory Journalism? I have a few spots left for Spring 2012. Here’s what you need to know.

As a student in this class, you’d join the staff of the Columbia Missourian, as part of the community outreach team. Exactly what that means will be determined by us, as we go along. We’ll do a lot of strategizing, experimenting and assessing what works. You’d be assigned about eight hours each week to spend in the newsroom, immersing yourself in what’s going on there and bringing the community into the news as much as you can. You’d also be responsible for following through on whatever came up on your shifts, and time outside those shifts would sometimes be required.

I firmly believe that injecting a focus on the audience into traditional journalism is key to its survival, and the community outreach team is about how to find the audience, invite them to interact with stories, capture and value the conversations they’re having (with us and with each other) and look for ways to collaborate with them to do better journalism.
In this class, the experiment is sometimes the point, more even than the content we create. You’d be part of defining that experiment, assessing how it’s going and adapting along the way. It’s not the kind of class where you’d be told exactly what to do. You would need to come to your newsroom shifts with ideas, enthusiasm and the ability to follow through on them.

This blog post about what we’ve been up to this semester might help.

We’re going to focus our efforts a little more tightly next semester, and might not be quite so wide-ranging in our efforts.

Some of the projects I’ve been most proud of and excited about this semester are:

— Taking fliers with important facts to community meetings, such as city council and school boundary forums. The goal is to reach people where and when they most need information.

— Using social media to spark conversations and find sources.

— Diving further into our analytics, strategizing around how we can be responsive to what the community seems to want, and learning more about what local readers want versus overall readers.

— Live tweeting breaking news.

— Producing behind-the-scenes videos with reporters and other staff.

— Working with reporters and editors to get the community more involved in our processes.

— Working on longer-term projects, such as a revised comment policy, a directory of media in Columbia, partnerships with schools to provide student reports for MyMissourian, a plan for how much information journalists should share about themselves on their bio pages, and a Twitter strategy for the newsroom.

There’s a drawing on the wall of the newsroom that’s explained in this blog post, which also might help you understand where I’m coming from.

Please let me know if you have questions, and feel free to talk to the current members of the outreach team. You can find them on this Twitter list.

NOTE: There is also a one-hour version of this class, without the staff requirement. Liz Brixey is teaching it in the spring. It’s a topics class, so you can find it under J4301/7301. Look for the section assigned to Brixey. It’s an awesome option for people who just need one credit, or who want to learn the material without working in the newsroom.

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