Looking for citizen journalists

Published 10:03 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

One of the biggest differences between a community newspaper and the large daily newspapers is how accessible the staff can be and how open we are for editorial submissions.

I worked at one of the largest dailies in the state while I was in college and I always thought it was odd that if you called the main line, you got an operator. If you asked top speak to someone in the newsroom, you were transferred to a clerk who would take your message and deliver it to the proper person.

The odds of you actually getting to speak to the person you originally intended were pretty low. The newsroom was on the third floor of a fairly large building and you had to have a pass code to get beyond security’s front desk.

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Those of you who have ever ventured into our office on East Jefferson know we’re not much on security and the newsroom isn’t much further than 20 feet from the front door.

The accessibility of our staff is one thing that makes us unique and I wish more readers would take advantage of it. Both the Demopolis Times and the Blackbelt Gazette are newspapers for the people. We want to write what you want to read.

We want to publish what you want to know about.

Last March, the Times launched its twice weekly format and new look, complete with many new features. We plan something similar next month for the Gazette.

Its publication cycle will not change, but the look, the feel and the content will.

That’s where you come in.

What do you want to see in your weekly Gazette?

Are you a local expert in cooking? Gardening? Fitness? If so, we’d like for you to submit stories regularly that will aid your fellow readers.

Are you a social butterfly who never misses a baby shower, wedding or event at the Country Club?

If so, we’d like for you to snap a few photos and give us a brief description of who was there and what happened.

American journalist and columnist Jimmy Breslin once said, “A job on a newspaper is a special thing. Every day, you take something that you found out about, and you put it down, and in a matter of hours, it becomes a product. Not just a product like a can or something.”

Newspapers are a product made available to the consumer – in this case, the reader. The product – in this case, the facts and tales contained in the newspaper itself – can be informative and, at times, life-changing.

Unlike cans, our newspapers are not mass produced and generic. We attempt to tailor our product to our market and those who live in our community.

I ask each of you to consider helping report the news of your friends and neighbors.

Citizen journalism is alive and well in the City of the People; all we ask is that you take advantage of it. School news, business news or household tips — we want it all.

If anything that I’ve said has piqued your interest, please call me at 289-4017 or e-mail me at jason.cannon@demopolistimes.com.

I look forward to hearing from some of you and listening to your ideas.