We Can Tell Our Stories: Citizen Journalism in Licking County

For decades, professional journalists have dictated what counts as the news. But sometimes professionals miss important stories—or lack the bandwidth to report on them. Audiences can now take matters into their own hands. Thus, citizen journalism— when public members collect, report, analyze and distribute news, often with the goal of social activism— is proliferating.

The Center for Narrative journalism hosted Kari Lydersen, a Chicago-based writer and Medill School of Journalism professor with an interest in citizen journalism, to teach Licking County residents about the movement. Students, faculty, and Newark residents from such organizations as the Freedom School and the ThinkTank on Poverty attended a Citizen Journalism workshop at the Newark space in downtown Newark. The visit and workshop were organized by Denison Univerisity’s Center for Narrative Journalism.

The group brainstormed stories that reflect their experiences and those of people around them. Many of these story ideas focused on series social issues like homelessness, addiction, housing, racism, and gentrification.

Lydersen helped the group review the components of an investigative story—data, documents and policies, sources, observations, and historical context. The group then explored how they might seek out this information for each story.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that the need for citizen journalism, and therefore an alternative media source platform in Newark, is much-needed to mobilize residents experiencing social issues, influence policymakers, and overall, raise community consciousness.

Lydersen’s visit energized the group and they hope to keep attending Center for Narrative Journalism-hosted workshops, aimed at training community members to tell their own stories, and report on community issues.

September 18, 2018