Thanks to individual donations and grants from several organizations including the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, Wausau Pilot and Review will soon launch a community journalism project to strengthen local media coverage.
The Documenters program, modeled after similar programs in Chicago, New Jersey and California, will launch mid-October.
We believe people want to be engaged in civic life — the problem is often that they haven’t been invited to the table. As journalists, we can bridge the gap between opaque civic processes that are largely inaccessible to the average person. Our Documenters program is a means of democratizing the tools and information needed to engage local citizens on the neighborhood level.
In addition to offering skills-exchange sessions and training, we hope to connect people with the information they need to leverage power, inform their neighbors and build trust with our news organization.
Over the next three months, we’ll solicit applications and will talk to members of the public, media organizations, technologists, organizers, funders, community groups and anyone else who wants to shape the future of civic journalism with us.
Here’s how the program works:
- Members of the public fill out an open application to become a Documenter.
- After completing both online and in-person training, applicants become Documenters and get access to paid assignments created by our staff.
- Those assignments include a range of activities centered around the documentation of public meetings and events, i.e. taking notes at a City Council session, live-tweeting a local community forum or reporting from a local neighborhood meeting. Preference will be given to meetings not being televised through public access.
- Documentation resulting from these assignments will be posted online, making it easily accessible to the public in an easy-to-digest form, without sifting through hours of online video.
Our goal: Strengthening local media coverage and building trust, both in journalism and in local government, by creating an online network of citizen “documenters” who receive training in the use of journalistic ethics and tools, attend public civic events, and produce short summaries that are posted online as a public resource.
We believe a well-informed public is essential to effective understanding of government processes, and by harnessing the power of the public, we can strengthen democracy in our community.
Watch for more details, coming soon.