Seeing John on the court representing our newspaper made me realize that the sense of community among those in journalism reaffirms my belief in this business.
As a soon-to-be graduate with a journalism degree, it is hard to ignore the debates around our school of the uncertain future of our profession. My time in college has lasted long enough to see the closing of almost 200 print newspapers and the push of journalism to an online form. Despite the cries of fellow students that there are no jobs in journalism, I argue that one newspaper will always be around: the community newspaper.
I grew up in a town with a weekly community newspaper that had only a couple reporters and photographers. Each week when the paper was put out I would scan the whole thing looking for my name, my family’s name, my friend’s names and pictures of any event that I might be in. Back then, being in the newspaper meant being in the town spotlight for an entire week.
As I have traveled away from home and worked for similar community newspapers, I have discovered that small communities that participate in these events still share this mentality. When people host or attend an event and see a reporter frantically writing notes or a photographer surveying to find his angle, they can’t help but ask, “When will this run in the paper?”
That is my favorite part about community journalism. Parents, children and community organizers are proud and enthusiastic to hold events that could be mentioned or pictured in the newspaper, and make it a point to get to know the staff of the newspaper to form a relationship with them. The establishment of this relationship is why community newspapers will never cease to exist.
Community journalists thrive on the relationship with their readers. I have longed to become a journalist in a community that recognizes and greets me when I appear at an event; a community trusting me to handle their story in a way that “spotlights” them when they pick up the next issue.
The unique part about community journalism is that the members of the newsroom reflect a community attitude. We celebrate — sometimes discretely — the successes of our partners as if they are our own. The writing or illustration may have a single name next to it but we all enjoy the accomplishment, which makes me proud to be a journalist.
The business itself may appear to be on shaky ground and have critics — including parents of new journalists such as myself — questioning the future, but journalism builds communities. It is a powerful tool that binds citizens with their love of seeing their name in lights and spreading the joy of their achievements. As long as small communities exist, there will be at least one person with enough passion to spread the news to that community.
Garrett Valenzuela is a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He will join the staff of the Sparks Tribune full time in May. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.