Weather Forecast


You: reporter about your own world

A faithful reader asked me the other day whether the Pioneer Journal will ever look at "citizen journalists" to help us deliver the news. The question was well-timed.

It's something that's been on my mind a lot lately, as well as the minds of many of my editor colleagues. How do we produce enough varied and interesting content to connect with each of our readers in a personal way each week at a time when newsroom budgets are also shrinking?

As editors, we don't want a few voices or viewpoints to dominate our coverage of the community. It should be more like an orchestra than a solo act.

Citizen journalism can accomplish that.

Now, the term "citizen journalist" is probably something a little more high-brow than what I mean. It would probably look good on a business card, but what we're really talking about here are people who are willing to write down a few facts about what's going on in their lives -- and the lives around them. Our company has been pretty visionary in creating a template and support system to help community journalism thrive. It's called AreaVoices, and it allows people to write about their interests. We provide the internet backbone. We help you set it up. We give you any advice you'd like. We promote it from our own homepage,

We purposely avoid calling this "blogging," which conjures to mind a bunch of left-wing or right-wing political watchers spinning what they see and grabbing headlines for doing so.

While we would even encourage that, we're hoping for something a lot more simple. Let's say your child is in Pee Wee hockey, and you'd be willing to post game scores and summaries on the sport to give the kids some recognition. We would help you set up that site, we'd pay the costs, and we'd let our readers know when you've updated your postings. It's remarkably easy to do once you've become familiar with the system.

I'd love to see more people use AreaVoices to cover any of the following:

• Interests like gardening, bird watching, scrapbooking, ATV riding, hunting, fishing or genealogy. A good example is our own Sara Hacking's food blog, "Counter Culture."

• People who would be willing to put some time in to talk about happenings in their town. Specifically, I'd love to have someone from Deer Creek, Bluffton, Sebeka, Nimrod, Verndale, Wadena, Aldrich, Bertha or Hewitt talk about what's going on in their town.

• Organizations like Lions, Rotary, arts groups, student organizations or the Relay for Life could talk to members or anyone interested about what's coming up.

• Large families can use the tools we have to keep in touch with each other, post photos, etc.

About the only restrictions we have on AreaVoices is it cannot be commercial in nature (i.e. "We're having a half-off sale this week!") and we won't promote a site that is vulgar in nature.

If you have even a passing interest in finding out how all of this will work, just drop me an e-mail at with "AreaVoices" as the subject line. I'll try to get a few interested people together for a training session soon.