Community Journalism

Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local

Jock Lauterer
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    Community Journalism
    Book Description:

    No matter how ambitious they may be, most novice journalists don't get their start at theNew York Times. They get their first jobs at smaller local community newspapers that require a different style of reporting than the detached, impersonal approach expected of major international publications. As the primary textbook and sourcebook for the teaching and practice of local journalism and newspaper publishing in the United States,Community Journalismaddresses the issues a small-town newspaper writer or publisher is likely to face.Jock Lauterer covers topics ranging from why community journalism is important and distinctive; to hints for reporting and writing with a "community spin"; to design, production, photojournalism, and staff management. This third edition introduces new chapters on adjusting to changing demographics in the community and "best practices" for community papers. Updated with fresh examples throughout and considering the newest technologies in editing and photography, this edition ofCommunity Journalismprovides the very latest of what every person working at a small newspaper needs to know.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0485-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    Community newspapers are thriving. Of the 9,321 newspapers in the United States, about 97 percent are considered “small” or community papers. These include weeklies, dailies, ethnic newspapers, papers devoted to religion coverage, gay and lesbian papers, and papers targeted to parents, senior citizens, military personnel, and other special-interest groups.

    Jock Lauterer is there to cheer all of them on. This book, now in its third edition, has been used nationwide by professors in their journalism classes and by journalists wanting to brush up on their Journalism 101 skills.

    Lauterer, an award-winning former North Carolina community newspaper editor and publisher, teaches...

  4. Introduction The Community Newspaper: An Essential Institution
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    I learned to appreciate the weekly newspaper in a south Alabama outhouse, where, when the Sears, Roebuck catalog was used up, the thoroughly read Clarke CountyDemocratserved a dual purpose.

    In its essential if earthy fate, the newspaper was doubly appreciated.

    Of course, by the cool college years, most of us felt we’d outgrown our community papers, loaded as they were with wedding write-ups that might run to half a page, pictures of dead snakes, five-legged calves and grotesquely shaped or whopping vegetables and lots of ads for hernia trusses, earthworm farms and “lost or strayed” cattle.

    One of...

  5. Preface: The Newspapers of the Blue Highways
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. ONE The State of Community Journalism
    (pp. 1-21)

    Invariably, when people ask, “What iscommunityjournalism?” I always feel as if I should be able to respond quickly, “Community journalism is . . . A, B and C.”

    But, being “American by birth, and Southern by the Grace of God,” I can best answer the question “What is community journalism?” with a story—for storytelling is one of the South’s greatest legacies.

    And the story itself, told in the first person, came from Governor Mike Easley himself, in his inaugural address to the North Carolina Press Association, the very month he took office, January 2001.

    Shortly after Easley...

  8. TWO With Apologies to Nike, but Why Just Do It?
    (pp. 22-29)

    In community journalism, as in acting, there are no “small” roles. And there’s no such thing as a “nondaily,” or “just” a weekly, either. Especially if you’re the editor of that paper, every issue is very real, and there are no conditionals. So, we say:

    There are 3,000-circulation weeklies.

    There are 10,000-circulation weeklies.

    There are 12,000-circulation twice-weeklies.

    There are 14,000-circulation tri-weeklies.

    There are 3,000-circulation dailies published Monday—Friday.

    There are 15,000-circulation dailies published every day.

    There are 40,000-circulation dailies with an extra-big Sunday edition.

    And those are just some of the examples and configurations.

    The bottom line is: Theyare...

  9. THREE What Am I Doing Here?
    (pp. 30-51)

    When Bob showed up at the arts center on Main Street, he was already agitated. He had some other assignments to do—and this one, a seemingly insignificant check presentation, felt like a waste of time.

    Four middle school students had won awards for their creative writing.

    Big deal, Bob thought to himself.

    The paper’s editor wanted a story and a photo, though Bob thought the whole thing was pretty lame.

    He arrived at the arts center in a sour mood, spoke to no one, but watched as the parents, teachers and principals stood chatting in happy clusters around the...

  10. FOUR Whose Paper Is It Anyway?
    (pp. 52-69)

    The old farmer, stopping by the newspaper office to renew his subscription, noted that the young editor seemed to be there working at all hours. “Son,” he observed with characteristic folk wisdom, “having a newspaper must be like having a cow.” And seeing the editor’s puzzlement, he explained, “Well, y’ gotta milk’er twice a day, and you can’t go off.”

    Nowhere is the difference between the community paper and the big daily more apparent than in the area of ownership. We’re not talking about corporate ownership here, but the community’s emotional and philosophical ownership.

    Up until now we’ve been talking...

  11. FIVE About That Little Old Lady from Dubuque
    (pp. 70-82)

    When the svelte and urbaneNew Yorkerstarted up in 1925, its editor, Harold Ross, wrote grandly in his opening essay, “The New Yorker. . . will not be edited for the old lady from Dubuque.”

    Well, friends, in case you haven’t figured it out, wearewriting for the little old lady from Dubuque, Iowa; Dixon, Ill.; or Dunn, N.C.—in a manner of speaking. You can do sophisticated and cosmopolitan work now where you are, but never forget that little old lady; she’s your reader too.

    High over the eastern seaboard, the Washington to Miami USAirways flight 1041...

  12. SIX About the Community in Community Journalism
    (pp. 83-90)

    Newspapers don’t publish in vacuums; they exist in places. And places can be just as individual as people. The student of journalism would be well advised to assess the “sense of place” about a prospective job destination, and along the way learn something about “placeness.”

    “All communities, like people, have an . . . attitude!—the psychological character of a community—and you can spot it a mile away,” says Danielle Withrow, town planner for Forest City, N.C., and advisory board member of the Carolina Community Media Project. The individual community’s self-image will be revealed, she asserts, when you listen...

  13. SEVEN News: 9/11 Was Local News Everywhere
    (pp. 91-118)

    No matter where you go in the country, ask to see a community newspaper’s edition from 9/11, and you’re likely to find at least one local angle story of the faraway tragedy: most obviously and painfully, if a local family lost a loved one when hijackers crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a remote field in rural southwestern Pennsylvania.

    But the effects of 9/11 were experienced first hand by thousands of other so-called ordinary people in many ways too: local residents who knew people or who had family members who worked in New York...

  14. EIGHT Features: Pay Attention to the Signs
    (pp. 119-140)

    The young feature writer stood puzzled at the open front door. An old man was supposed to meet him here for a feature about cider making. But Hoyle Greene wasn’t in sight. Disappointed, the reporter turned to leave. But wait a minute—what’s that sign by the mailbox? A jumbled bunch of nonsense. It said:





    Staring at the sign intently, the reporter began to understand. The old man couldn’t spell very well and thought periods at the end of each word added weight. The message was starting to get through, as Hoyle Greene, all a-grin and...

  15. NINE Editorials: The Rapier, Not the Sledgehammer
    (pp. 141-158)

    The brassy, outspoken high school biology teacher confronted the young editor as she was coming out of the local post office. Repeatedly thrusting one pointed finger at her, the teacher spoke as if to an errant first-year student who clearly needed to hear her superior wisdom: “About your editorial this week . . . why don’t you just stick to what you’re good at—which is writing features.”

    So . . . they didn’t tell you it would be like this in J-school?

    Welcome to the wonderful world of community newspaper editorial writing, where all your readers think they have...

  16. TEN Interviewing and Writing
    (pp. 159-183)

    A local pianist who just returned from her Carnegie Hall debut stops by theBugleto renew her subscription, and is spotted by her old friend the editor. They begin talking about the performance, and the editor suggests a follow-up story. “Actually,” he says, thinking out loud, “it’s a slow news day . . . could you give us an interview now?” The musician, a little surprised but mindful of the need for publicity, consents. The editor assigns an available writer from the small newsroom, Bob Tuttlemaus, a new reporter fresh out of J-school.

    Tuttlemaus shakes hands with the pianist...

  17. ELEVEN It Used to Be Called the Women’s Page
    (pp. 184-194)

    So you’re thinking of starting a community paper, or buying one, or taking one over. You go over your inventory of expertise and equipment: business manager, ad reps, news editor, reporters, computers, cameras, a press or someone to print the paper . . . what else?

    But wait, your paper is missing a vital ingredient. Without one of these you might as well not even turn on the press.

    You need a Virginia.

    Forgive the first person, but it would be impossible to talk about the growth, development and success of any community paper with which I’ve ever been involved...

  18. TWELVE Community Sports: It’s Only a Game, Right?
    (pp. 195-214)

    The venue was not exactly what Joe, the new photographer at theBugle, had had in mind. Not exactly Camden Yards or Yankee Stadium.

    The grass in center field at the Sandy Run School baseball field was over ankle-deep. The scorekeeper sat on a folding metal chair using a collapsible card table to keep track of the game.

    There were no lights. No dugout.

    No concessions. The field could only be described as marginal for sandlot. The bleachers, if you could call them that, consisted of a grassy hillside, now dotted with parents on quilts and blankets, cheering for a...

  19. THIRTEEN Graphics, Design and the Community Paper
    (pp. 215-225)

    Good design makes us feel good. When we look at a well-designed page, we are drawn into the page, and find ourselves reading everything, almost effortlessly. But when we look at an ugly newspaper page, our reaction will be to bolt, and head off for the predictable. That usually means the comics or tv.

    Kenny Irby of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., says that the ultimate function of design is to solve a problem or meet a challenge. For the newspaper designer, that challenge deals with arranging three elements—words, pictures and space—in a...

  20. FOURTEEN Photojournalism: Put That Camera Down and Dance, Boy!
    (pp. 226-244)

    Look at your paper’s front page—or the front of your hometown newspaper. Examine the covers of this week’sTimemagazine, a copy ofRolling Stoneor theNational Enquirer. What is the common denominator that links all of these fronts?

    That the cover is to the publication what the lede is to a story.

    It should beckon; it should entice; it should seduce; it should grab; it should make you stay. It should make you read. It should make you turn the page.

    The eye is a lusty hunter and also a fickle one.

    Bored, our eyes leap for...

  21. FIFTEEN Technology and Community Newspapers
    (pp. 245-258)

    There is in our society an almost visceral need for currency in technology, the newest, the latest, the fastest—hence, the coolest—as if we gauge our worth by how many megapixels our snazzy new digital camera has. Six? Ooooooh. That’s big! Admittedly it is easy to feel smug in an airport when you pop out your sleek new silver X-6 laptop as heads turn admiringly.

    But wait, haven’t you heard? The X-6 is out and the X-7 is in research and development. So today’s tech toy is tomorrow’s relic.

    If dogs age seven years for every human one, tech...

  22. SIXTEEN Ethics and Community Newspapers: A Different Way of Looking at Things
    (pp. 259-282)

    Most community newspapers orient themselves ethically toward their communities in a fundamentally different way than their big-city cousins, according to a former Maine weekly newspaper editor and now professor and editor of the bookThe Journalist’s Moral Compass.

    While the community paper, like the large metro paper, serves in the vital role of public watchdog of governmental affairs, Steven R. Knowlton of Hofstra University says the similarities end there.

    “At many large metro papers, when a bad guy is caught with his hand in the public till, they report it almost with a sense of triumphant glee,” Knowlton says. “But...

  23. SEVENTEEN We Mean Business, Too
    (pp. 283-292)

    Mario had always wanted his own paper. At eight, he’d put out a neighborhood newsletter. In high school, he started an underground ’zine of his own; he’d never gotten over the thrill.

    Now he was in his mid-20s and had a couple of years under his belt at a mediocre chain-owned afternoon daily with a circulation of about 14,000. Mario told himself he wasn’t totally miserable at the paper, but he wasn’t inspired either. Nobody cared much about quality journalism or community growth. It was time to do one of two things: Find a job at a better paper where...

  24. EIGHTEEN Newsroom Management: The Personnel Approach
    (pp. 293-315)

    David Day, a Penn State associate professor of psychology who studies businesses, describes the challenge like this: “Dealing with personnel is probably the toughest thing managers have to do—yet it’s the thing for which they’re the least prepared.”

    If you are a college student or a newcomer to the field contemplating a career in community journalism, you may think you’re years away from becoming an editor or publisher. But in community journalism, things can happen quickly and without much warning. Sooner than you might imagine you could find yourself in a management position in which your personnel abilities will...

  25. NINETEEN ¿Hablamos Español? (Do We Speak Spanish?)
    (pp. 316-331)

    While the American Southwest has a long history of Latino presence and acculturation, in the East this demographic is a relatively new phenomenon.

    In North Carolina, where the Latino population increased a dramatic 400 percent during the 1990s, several mainstream (read: mostly white newsroom) community newspapers have begun experimenting with coverage of Latino issues. Some of these traditional community papers have started bilingual columns in their core product. Others have introduced special bilingual pages. And still others have created entirely new and separate Spanish-language publications. But for every enlightened community newspaper that has addressed this issue, there are a dozen...

  26. TWENTY The Great Good Paper
    (pp. 332-363)

    Sociologist Ray Oldenburg is in love with “third places.” Not the homeplace (your first place) or the workplace (your second place), but that other informal social place—a third place, where you go to hang out, chill out, recover, recoup and reload: the café, tavern, pub, bookstore, bowling alley or neighborhood coffee shop. When a third place is an inclusive, welcoming, nurturing and vital center of the community, Oldenburg calls such a place not just a good place, it becomes a GREAT good place.

    I’m thinking that Oldenburg will not only forgive us for co-opting his title concept, but will...

  27. TWENTY-ONE The Evolution of a Community Newspaper
    (pp. 364-376)

    When developmental psychologists track the growth and maturation of a child over a period of years, they call such a process a “longitudinal study.”

    What if we who study newspapers could get to watch a newspaper grow and mature as well? In this chapter we’ll do just that—visiting a remarkable little paper three times at roughly five-year intervals.

    Thursday, July 8, 1993: When publisher Jeff Byrd arrived at the main street offices of the TryonDaily Bulletinat 8 A.M. Thursday, assistant pressman Tony Elder already had printed three runs of the Friday paper. But then, at theBulletin,...

  28. TWENTY-TWO A Johnny Appleseed Community Journalism Roadshow
    (pp. 377-385)

    Seventy-five brightly colored pins dot the wall map of the Old North State in my office—each pin represents a town, each town one of the 189 community newspapers that blanket my state, over 500 miles from the misty mountains to the pounding surf.

    Since its creation in 2001, the annual summer Community Journalism Roadshow has taken free, on-site journalism workshops to the newsrooms across North Carolina, aiming to inspire the mediocre, encourage the good and applaud the great.

    Ask any gathering of community newspaper editors or publishers what they want for their newsroom staffs—and you’ll hear a resounding...

  29. TWENTY-THREE Two Case Studies of Community Newspaper Start-Ups One Home Run, One Sacrifice Fly
    (pp. 386-400)

    For years the Black Knights of Robbinsville High School have been a football powerhouse. It remains something of a mystery how a tiny mountain community in the Blue Ridge Mountains can consistently generate great teams. Sure, the coaches can and should get a lot of credit, but something else is at work here too.

    Right after the Big Game with their archrivals at the end of the regular season, one unremarkable-looking split end was telling a reporter why he thought Robbinsville won. The kid said, “I guess we wanted it badder’n they did.” You could shake a stick at every...

  30. TWENTY-FOUR Speedbumps and Troubleshooting
    (pp. 401-406)

    Your car needs gas, maintenance and periodic oil changes. You know all too well what happens if you don’t put gas in the car: You find yourself on the side of the road when you least need to be stranded. If you defer maintenance, you really can get into trouble. And not changing your oil means Old Betsy won’t be long for this world.

    The irony is that people tend to be better to their cars than they are to themselves.

    In community journalism, we’re running flat out all the time. We’re red-lining it. Our tachometers are pushing the limits...

  31. Epilogue
    (pp. 407-408)

    No excuses, Will—just one man’s final hurrah for the future of community journalism.

    The legacy of 15 years of community newspapering—an old log cabin and a chunk of mountain land—lures me away from the rarified air of academe, keeping the “perfesser” grounded with the real state he’s in. (Bill Moss of the HendersonvilleTimes-Newsonce introduced me as follows: “This is Jock Lauterer: He was raised in Chapel Hill and then moved to North Carolina.”)

    Here in my favorite greasy spoon in little Green Hill (no stoplights . . . yet), one of my favorite games is...

  32. A Community Journalism Glossary
    (pp. 409-416)
  33. More Resources and References for Community Journalists
    (pp. 417-420)
  34. Index
    (pp. 421-432)
  35. Back Matter
    (pp. 433-433)