Building civic engagement online

Nicest conference room I've ever used. Photo/Meg Heckman
Nicest conference room I’ve ever used.

I spent the weekend at a lovely hotel in Saratoga Springs where the New York Press Association held its annual convention. Hundreds of staffers from papers all over the Empire State were there to receive awards, eat great food and listen to speakers like me.

My lecture explored how local newspapers can use digital tools to foster civic engagement. It’s a talk I’ve given before and was happy to repeat because it allows me to challenge something I hear too often from newspaper journalists. The web, they say, is best suited for fluffy features and photos of kittens, not the kind of stories that support democracy.

That’s just not true. This handout includes some examples of meaningful online journalism, as does the presentation below:

The crowd that attended my lecture was full of young, smart journalists starting their careers at New York’s many weekly papers. They asked great questions and shared how they had used digital tools to engage readers in civic life. Like this election night blog from the Riverhead News-Review. Using CoverItLive, the staff mixed strong reporting and a bit of humor with fantastic results.

564515_10151392314772913_662473472_nAnother example of online civic engagement came from the Home Reporter, a Brooklyn paper with a very active Facebook account. The staff told me how they routinely receive news tips and reader questions through the page.

What other ways are local papers using the web to foster civic engagement? Tell me in the comment section below.

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