Staff: Can you trust community journalists?
The Daily News is currently conducting a reader survey aimed at hearing suggestions for improving the newspaper. We want you to know we’re actively reading your comments and over the next few weeks will respond to a few remarks as they come in.
Please take our survey at www.lagrangenews.com/survey to provide input.
Taking the survey can also register respondents for a chance to win two tickets to see Willie Nelson live at Sweetland Amphitheatre at Boyd Park on May 29, courtesy of the amphitheatre.
Here’s one suggestion we’ve received:
“I’d put the emphasis back on quality news reporting. That means getting news from qualified professionals. The thought of opening up LDN reporting to community members makes my blood run cold. You have cut your staff to the bare minimum, and they barely have time to edit their own stories, much less ride herd on “community journalists” who may have an agenda or not particularly care about the facts. Right now, I’d say that I trust the LDN’s reporting, but if the idea of CJ (community journalism) goes forward, that trust will end. You have an excellent news staff already in place, but good grief!
There is no way two reporters and an editor can effectively cover news in Troup County. The result of that has been more and more errors getting into the paper — spelling and grammatical — because there just isn’t anyone there to edit copy. Pay a decent wage and hire at least one more qualified professional. I think you’d be surprised at the difference that will make.”
Our initiative for the stringers program is to bring in members of the community to help us report on events and people in the community, and it is true that the majority of our applicants so far have no prior journalism experience. However, these community journalists will be mainly tasked with stories focusing on regular individuals, and previewing and covering community events.
We also opened the program up for everyone because we want to help emphasize that we are a part of the community, and there should be no barrier between the LaGrange Daily News and the community at large. We want everyone to know we are their paper.
More serious subjects like governmental, investigative and crime reporting will still be left to the Daily News staff. We have also emphasized in our early meetings with applicants the importance of objectivity and avoiding conflicts of interest, and they will have written guidelines and a contract emphasizing this.
We are offering training in basic techniques for our stringers, and they will be required to provide us a source list with contacts to fact-check all stories. We realize this does, as this response mentions, put more duties on us to edit, assign and coordinate our stringers, but the trade-off is they should take pressure off us — and provide even more content — for many of the above-mentioned types of stories. This should allow more time for us to coordinate stringers, edit and focus on our stories.
We also plan to add personnel to our staff, but — just as with any business — we need the revenue to support a new hire, and our hope is providing additional content and focus on community engagement will help us in that goal.
Thank you for your response.
Keep reading over the next several weeks to see more changes, more survey responses and other new features.