For National Coming Out Day, two Carleton students taking Doug McGill’s fall journalism class recently published Northfield-related stories: Debbie Wong published “Coming Out Day” Raises Issues and Eyebrows in Northfield on the new Pressville blog and Maia Rodriguez published On National Coming Out Day, Northfield Reflects on Its "Gay-Friendliness" on Northfield.org. I found it troubling that neither of them mentioned or linked to our 2007 blog post, How gay-friendly is Northfield? with the 30 comments attached. (continued)
A Google search on the words "northfield mn gay" displays that blog post at the top.
Other Pressville stories exhibit the same problem. For example, there’s not a single hyperlink in the story by Leaf Elhai, Old Memorial Emerges as Skate Park Frontrunner — For Now. Why not link to some of the Northfield News stories on the issue? Why not link to some of the relevant items on the City of Northfield‘s site, some of the blog posts on the Union of Youth site, some of the blog posts by Councilor Betsey Buckheit, or some of the LG blog posts?
I understand the rationale for teaching a traditional approach to journalism. But this illustrates a problem with it, i.e., a reporter acting as if other media, other websites, and the local blogosphere don’t exist; that local citizens who’ve already publicly indicated an interest in the issue aren’t considered when researching or writing the story; that it’s not relevant to consider the existing ‘places’ where conversation is already happening; that engaging with people after a story is written is not important.
The student reporters who wrote about Northfield and National Coming Out Day could have engaged citizens on our blog thread as they began to work on their stories. People who have commented there might have become good sources for follow-up interviews. Comparisons between 2007 and 2009 could have been made. Follow-up conversation reacting to their articles could have ensued, possibly leading to greater understanding and community examination of the issues.
As it is, the students’ stories have a very short shelf-life, have little chance of taking advantage of the viral nature of the internet, don’t prepare the students for how journalism is changing, and worst of all, run the risk of pissing off cranky local bloggers. 😉
Professor Doug McGill and I have discussed these issues recently so I’m now hoping to engage his students and interested citizens in the debate, too.