UNC Journalism Teacher Focuses on Local Communities
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lecturer Jock Lauterer is encouraging his journalism students to abandon the classroom and immerse themselves into the culture and life of the communities of Carrboro and Durham to produce a bi-weekly online newspaper. Students in Lauterer’s community journalism class learn how to report on important community events affecting local people that ordinarily might be neglected by larger newspapers. “In community journalism we live here. We are going to see our sources at church and Piggly Wiggly. We are a community,” Lauterer said.
Students work in Carrboro and Durham
In the past, students incorporated writing, video and photography to produce the Carrboro Commons, an online newspaper featuring stories from Carrboro. This year students are split up between working on the Carrboro Commons or the Northeast Central Durham Community Voice. The Voice is a new online paper reporting on a neighborhood currently undergoing a revitalization effort to improve the quality of life of its residents as they face difficult struggles with crime, gang violence and drug use. “We believe giving a voice to this neighborhood will empower them and help build community,” Lauterer said. “There are a lot of positive things that are not being reported.”
UNC and NC Central Build a Partnership
In an additional collaborative effort, Lauterer’s class will be working alongside with advanced reporting students at North Carolina Central University to produce the Voice. Lauterer initially contacted assistant professor Lisa Paulin and associate professor Bruce dePyssler after realizing that while the two universities were minutes away from each other, there was rarely any interaction. “I think this is the first true exchange between the two journalism programs,” Lauterer said, himself an alumnus of UNC. “They’ve done some really hard hitting stories. I respect the work they’re doing.” At the beginning of the year, both universities visited the Northeast Central Durham neighborhood together. However, it is left up to each student to find and write his or her own story. “I’m more of a tour guide,” Lauterer said.
Students Mentor Urban Teens
Students from both universities also donate their time towards mentoring a group of urban teens from Northeast Central Durham neighborhood after school. This program is done in conjunction with the South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS) at the Durham Inner City Gardens. Elders in the community, such as Ann Atwater, a veteran of the civil rights era, are brought in to talk about their life experiences, allowing teens to document their narratives and learn how to produce journalistic content on their own. “There are a lot of people who care about the community, and a lot of community activities doing positive things,” Paulin said. The hope is that between the interaction with the college students and the experience of writing, the participating teenagers will begin thinking about higher education as a viable choice. “Start interacting with college kids and get them to start thinking about college as an option,” dePyssler said. Engaging students and interacting with the general community is not a strange idea for Lauterer.
As part of the inaugural Faculty Engaged Scholars program at UNC, Lauterer created the Carolina Community Media Project, an initiative dedicated towards teaching, encouraging and supporting community media outlets in North Carolina. “Community journalism is about local coverage.” Lauterer said. “It is important because that’s the kind of newspaper that is surviving.”
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