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5 invaluable lessons of Participatory Journalism

Participatory Journalism is an innovative course offered through the Missouri School of Journalism providing students an opportunity to be part of the Missourian's community outreach team. Here's a look at the highlights of my contribution and the valuable lessons I learned along the way.

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  1. "The supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service." -WW
    "The supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service." -WW
  2. So what exactly is participatory journalism? The course description according to the syllabus states:
  3. "The relationship between journalists and their audiences is changing. How can we reach out to our communities in an authentic way? How do we ethically navigate being an individual participant and a journalist? How can we be in conversation, rather than delivering lectures? How can we invite the community into our processes and our products? In this course, we will look at how a collaborative culture is changing journalism, and how journalists can take part."
  4. One of my first tasks on the outreach team was to create a profile page identifying my role at the Missourian.
  5. Creating a personal profile as a journalists allows the public to gain a better understanding of the "person behind the news." Transparency only adds value to any journalistic endeavor. Plus it can be a way to show that journalists are human too.
  6. 1. SEMESTER-LONG PROJECT: Strategically connect relevant content to targeted audiences

  7. My semester-long project focused on strategically identifying audiences who most need specific content the Missourian publishes. An example of the most involved story I worked on dealt with the underreporting of sexual assault on college campuses.
  8. The Missourian has produced a lot of coverage on sexual assault throughout the years, including a recent article, "MU's Office of Student Conduct handles few sex offense cases." This was the exact type of story I envisioned for my semester-long project. So I researched and extracted relevant information from previous coverage to illuminate the issue at hand.

    Summarizing previous coverage allows the Missourian to extend the average "shelf-life" of its stories. Typically the first few days tend to attract the most views for stories, but this method helps keep our content relevant. This summary can also be linked to future stories as a means of providing additional context.
  9. The Missourian's graphics team jumped on board by creating an infographic with highlights from the story — this allowed us to distribute the information visually on social media and in person with print copies. We went to new lengths to ensure the proper audience was exposed to our content.
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  11. This project wasn't just a summary of facts, it was call-to-action, a catalyst for conversation, a guideline for civil dialogue.
  12. 2. COVERING DEATH: Columbia's first black councilwoman and civic servant, Almeta Crayton

  13. Almeta Crayton was a well-known community advocate and served as Columbia's first black city councilwoman. When the newsroom discovered she'd been hospitalized in critical condition, we began discussing the appropriate way to cover the unfortunate news. We began with this Facebook album: Columbia Residents thank Almeta Crayton for years of service.

    Crayton devoted her life to helping low-income families and the homeless. This meant the Missourian's outreach team had an obligation to reach the proper audience, and my experience helping is one I'll never forget.

    Here are a few of my favorite photos from the album:
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  17. I met several homeless people while collecting community voices for the Facebook album. Some people chose not to participate out of concern of being portrayed as unintelligent — others shared their message, but asked not to be included in the photo.

    On the day of Crayton's funeral, the outreach team was there to collect final messages from those in attendance.
  18. The outreach team is part of the newsroom as a whole. After Crayton passed away, I put together a short multimedia story.

    I had the privilege of interviewing Crayton the summer before for another class, and some of the audio soundbites were to valuable not to share.
  19. The entire process of covering Crayton's passing was such a memorable experience that I felt compelled to blog about it.
  20. Looking back on the experience a few months later, I believe covering death should always be a participatory endeavor. A life is too complex to be properly captured by one's family or a selection of individuals. Offering the community and public an opportunity to share their memories and feelings will produce a more wholesome understanding of who that person truly was.
  21. 3. LIVE TWEETING: The release of Ryan Ferguson press conference

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