“To pivot: the action in basketball of stepping with one foot while keeping the other foot at its point of contact with the floor.”

Don’t worry, Journalists For America – the team of Reese News Lab interns focusing on community journalism – did not evolve into a basketball team in the last week. But we have significantly altered our approach to helping improve community journalism.

What do the experts say?

Monday morning, the Journalists For America team started bright and early with breakfast with Jock Lauterer, Director of Carolina Community Media Project and founder of the Durham VOICE. He was the perfect expert to discuss the potential ways that we could have a substantial impact on community journalism. Lauterer suggested that we investigate the potential for graduates to enter schools as journalism teachers.

With this in mind, my team altered the survey that we will present at the Journalism Student Ambassador’s internship fair. We are now going to ask whether journalism students are interested in teaching journalism for two years, a model even more similar to the original Teach for America model that has inspired us since the beginning of the semester. We will continue to have one foot firmly planted in the knowledge that we gained from our experts over the past few weeks while continuing to explore new and sustainable ways to help community journalism.

Where’s the money?

Our team is still struggling with possible funding models. We talked with Venture for America, an organization that places recent college graduates with start-ups, this week. We also talked with a team led by Josh Stern, director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, who had recently researched the potential for “Report for America.” These conversations were crucial as we still wrestle with how to fund the fellows, regardless of if they are entering a news organization or a school system. Venture for America is a relatively new program and we were able to ask a lot of questions about how it first got off the ground. The organization trains college graduates to be helpful employees in start-up companies around the country and then they work in a variety of cities for two years. VFA started small with only a few interns placed in a few cities. Over the next years, it expanded. Its leaders choose the cities where interns are placed carefully, focusing on smaller cities like Austin, Texas, instead of New York City.

What comes next?

Our next week is going to be challenging. We are going to reach out to other journalism schools in hopes of distributing our student survey to a wider variety of students. This information is critical to guiding the development of our program. Although Journalists For America will likely start small in the first few years, we want the program to appeal to recent graduates all across the country. We are also going to talk to small news organizations to assess the potential for graduates to help in the areas they most need it.

Overall, the Journalists For America team is excited to be meeting such incredible experts in the field that are making a huge difference in a variety of places.


Previously on community journalism:

Embracing changes to your shiny new idea

IRB patience lends time to dig deeper

Two key strategies for the beginning stages of a prototype

Why IRB calls for specificity 

How might we meet the information needs of communities?

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