Hi. I’m new to the community. Here’s what I’m not new to: community journalism.
Now, there’s a term with a lot of meanings.
When elected officials misstep, when people do nefarious things, when tragedies happen, community journalism is about informing the readers as quickly as possible, with the most comprehensive, accurate information possible.
When we feel strongly about an issue, and when important happenings are coming down the pike, community journalism puts those things on its readers’ radar, so they can not only be informed, but get involved, if they so choose. They should, by the way, if they feel as strongly as we do.
To me, perhaps one of the biggest parts of community journalism is pulling back the curtain to show you who we are. We live here, too. Well, my family will be here soon. Here’s a little about us.
My wife, Kayla, is a journalist, as well, although having 3-year-old twins, Anna and Elise, has relegated her to freelancing. In addition to a part-time job as the secretary at a local Methodist church, she’s been teaching fitness classes and hopes to get her personal training certification soon. Our girls are the best things we’ve ever done, plain and simple. I can’t wait for you to meet them, so if anyone knows of a house going on the market, don’t be a stranger.
At the moment, I’m making the breathtaking two-hour, 15-minute round-trip commute between here and Sterling, where I worked for Sauk Valley Media for more than five years – two in sports, and more than three as an editor on the news side.
While there, I covered education, which leads me to one thing I cherish about community journalism: While we’ll always have to be watchdogs first and foremost, it also behooves us to celebrate our community’s achievements, its stories, its unsung heroes.
Here, I’m going to push for more coverage of education, where a lot of great things are happening, but often get overshadowed by perennial issues such as funding woes and mandated assessments.
At the outset, as I take over for our former news editor, Brett Rowland, who took a promotion to the same position with the Northwest Herald, I’m sliding into his beat, cops and courts, as well. I’m also going to write business stories for our Marketplace section.
But wait. There’s more. A lot more.
In this industry, and especially in markets of this size, reporters are, to a degree, general assignment reporters.
So I’m looking forward to writing a lot of feature stories, as well. I’m a big fan of them because everyone has a story, and so often they resonate with others. Sometimes, they can even inspire others. That’s when this community journalism thing can get mighty powerful.
I’ve got a story, too. Lots of them, in fact. When you see me out and about, please introduce yourself. Help me get to know this community I’m excited to join.
Have an issue you’d like to see covered? Shoot. Have a complaint? I’m all ears. The only way we avoid repeating mistakes is if we know about them. Did we earn a gold star? We always like to hear about things we’re doing well, too, so do tell.
But first, tell me your story.
• Christopher Heimerman is news editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email email@example.com.