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Local reporting on Chicago’s South and West Sides gets a boost

There are a lot of untold stories about Chicago neighborhoods, especially the city’s low-income communities. But 2011 could be the year where we actually get to hear stories about the impact of federal health care reform on West and South Side residents or the plight of black men in this recession. On Monday, The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Community Media Workshop and The Chicago Reporter, announced $110,000 for local reporting on issues impacting South and West Side neighborhoods.

A deeper look at youth violence, the Pilsen community’s economy, cyber-bullying among low-income youth of color, local Latinas working in the arts–these are the types of stories that received funding, and they’re the types of issues I personally look forward to hearing more about. Award winners include individuals, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies with expertise in either journalism or Chicago’s community issues. The 31 winners were chosen from among 108 proposals.

The Workshop and The Chicago Reporter are helping the Trust administer the Local Reporting Awards, part of the Trust’s Community News Matters program, which seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful local news and information and help the region’s cutting edge innovators develop new models for providing news and information. It is funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Why community newspapers should blog (Guest post by Marcie Hill)

Guest post by Marcie Hill, Journalist/Professional Blogger for the community resource site Your Chicago South Side Resource & Founder/President of The Write Design Company

Many neighborhoods and communities have newspapers that provide information and resources that are relevant to them.  Because the journalists that write for these publications are from the community, residents tend to place a higher level of trust in these publications.  Unfortunately, many community newspapers have limited staffs and budgets and large amounts information to share.  To help remedy this situation, they should consider having a blog in addition to their print publication.  Following are seven reasons why.

  1. Create and control your own media. Most stories and events in individual communities are not covered by mainstream media. When they are covered, stories shown tend to be negative or missing great detail.  Blogging allows community papers to share positive information about the people, places and events in the community in any format they want.  Community members with writing skills may also contribute at some point. Ultimately, they control the media and the message.
  2. People who don’t live in those communities do not know what’s going on.  Reporting on blogs can dispel many untruths and exaggerations shared by mainstream media. This could also garner support from outsiders for issues relevant to the community.
  3. Blogs are another source of news distribution.  Many community newspapers that serve low-income residents tend to rely on print to get the message to this audience. They are missing out on a more tech savvy audience, which can ultimately expand the newspaper’s reach.
  4. Continue to build relationships with residents in the community. Blogs allow community newspaper to really listen to the issues and concerns of the people and have conversations with residents who stop by online. This will not only help build relationships, it will also give them more stories to report.
  5. Share information quickly.  Because many community newspapers tend to be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, a blog will allow them to share new developments and last minute information as soon as it is received.
  6. Become a news source for mainstream media. In addition to press releases, newspapers can send links to relevant stories to large media outlets on their sites.  Their online presence and the number of visitors to their sites will greatly increase.
  7. Generate another source of revenue through advertising.  Community newspapers can get advertisements from local businesses or large organizations that would like to reach members of the communities they serve, which will result in more revenue.

Blogs can be valuable assets to community newspapers.  In addition to reporting accurate and positive information about the neighborhood, they can expand their readership beyond their community.  Their online presence will ultimately result in increased credibility as a news source by local residents and worldwide audiences.

Whether you’re a community group or a community newspaper, blogs can be a great, informal way to tell your story. If you’re interested in learning more about blogging, check out our upcoming basic blogging workshop with former Tribune Reporter Teresa Puente.

Where’s the new news?

As struggling local newspapers continue to abandon the printed page, foundations, entrepreneurs and journalists are launching “hyperlocal” and watchdog news Web sites.

Where and who are they? What do they tell us about the new media landscape?

We’ve pinpointed significant news Web sites emerging around the United States and beyond by creating this custom Google Map for the Community Media Workshop.

Chicago is fertile ground for a number of “new news” sites, such as LISC/New Communities, Chi-Town Daily News and EveryBlock, to name just a few.

Click on the map, then zoom in or search it for specific locations to get a closer view of the emerging players in online news.

Have more sites to add? Please tell us in the comments!

–Elsa Wenzel


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