How it works
GUIDELINES FOR EDITORS, MENTORS AND STUDENTS:
- Newspapers shall cover the breadth of local news, including local government, arts, culture, sports and newsworthy community events (and schools if it doesn't pose a conflict of interest.) The newspapers serve both an educational role and a community service role.
- Newspapers should publish both in print and online.
- The newspaper masthead has editorial control and should include at least one or more experienced journalists (active or retired) to guide the journalism (reporting, writing and research.)
- Students should abide by current journalistic best practices and ethical standards for editorial content, including social media.
These standards are spelled out by student and professional journalism associations such as the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists. CRA has a handbook.
- Students who write and edit the newspaper should receive a modest stipend.
- The newspapers should strive to have a diverse staff that reflects the population of their city or town.
- Training: The newspapers should offer an introductory journalism workshop for new student staff members and training sessions on reporting and writing at least several times a year for regular staff.
(For example, the introductory session can include assignments to gain experience on the field, such as doing on-the-street interviews about reaction to a news event and gathering at least two quotes on opposing views. Another assignment could be attending a town hall meeting and asking questions to determine the main news from the meeting. Ongoing training sessions can include speakers and tagging along with a working journalist to cover a story.)
- The newspapers should strive to be self-sustaining through their own efforts to obtain advertising, donations, grants and other sources of income.
THE ROLE OF THE LIBRARY:
- The role of libraries can range from serving as publisher of the newspaper to offering supportive services, such as providing meeting space.
At a minimum, libraries should offer:
- meeting space.
- access to databases and library services, including support equipment like photocopiers.
- help with distribution by having a newspaper rack in a permanent location in the reception area.
- promotion of the newspaper through library media channels such as the library's own social media accounts.
- a story idea box in a permanent location in the reception area to allow library users to offer suggestions for news coverage.
- use of the library name and logo by the newspaper for promotional purposes.
Libraries can also:
- contribute library funds to the newspaper.
- help produce and run the newspaper by providing board and staff members to edit and mentor the student journalists as well as manage ad sales, bookkeeping and other tasks.
- recruit students for the newspapers from their library programs, or through library staff already working in literacy programs with the schools, such as “Story Time.”
- partner with the newspapers for programs to raise funds or provide a richer experience for both readers and library patrons. For example, the library could showcase books on a subject the student journalists are working on and host an event (panel, speakers) built around that topic.
- Another example: if the library is featuring a speaker or a reading by an author, the newspaper could run a profile or Q&A of the speaker/author.
THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL:
Under the Community Reporting Alliance model, the newspapers are not school projects, though they may use school facilities. They are independent from school oversight.
But there is room for collaboration around recruitment of student staff and fulfillment of class and school requirements as an incentive for students to join the newspaper.
- provide space for newsroom meetings and operations.
- allow use of school computers.
- allow journalism school teachers (writing, photography) to serve as advisors to the newspapers.
- when appropriate, allow teachers to accept stories written for the newspaper from students to fulfill an assignment for class.
- allow students to fulfill “community service” credits by working at the newspaper, just like they do now by volunteering with churches, food pantries for the poor and similar programs. CRA can provide Community Service Certification.