Helping build citizen journalism in Winnipeg

Communities / Article

The Community News Commons, a citizen reporting news site in Winnipeg, is now live online with a formal launch planned for the fall.

Noah Erenberg, its community news commons convenor, said 80 people have registered to become contributors. Many have posted stories, some on a regular basis, Erenberg said.

The Commons is a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, and the first Canadian project to win the competition. Partners are the Free Press Cafe, Millennium Library and Red River College.

So far, community response is encouraging.  “As we are building interest and momentum around the citizen journalism project, we are also very encouraged by the opportunities for collaboration with other communities partners such as our local libraries and the local college journalism program,” said LuAnn Lovlin, director of communications at the foundation. “When we put those organizations into the mix, along with Canada’s first news café, we believe it will make for a more informed and engaged community, which The Winnipeg Foundation believes, ultimately, will be a more caring and giving community.”

The Commons provides training on these topics:

·      Introduction to online journalism and citizen reporting

·      Writing news and feature stories for online journalism sites

·      Photojournalism for online viewing and sharing

·      Online videography and documentary storytelling

·      Audio reporting and documentary radio production for podcasts

·      Using digital mobile tools effectively and creatively

So far, the project has trained 30 local residents. Erenberg is also developing training resources that will be made available on the site.

Erenberg said he will soon begin meeting regularly at three locations of the project partners – the Winnipeg Free Press News Café, operated by the local newspaper, the college and the library.

This will enable him to engage with the public, promote the project and work with citizen contributors as they brainstorm and research their ideas and improve their media skills.

“We figure that by being visible and available to the general public, we are likely to generate more random acts of journalism,” Erenberg said. 

He said formal training will continue in the fall. There will be sessions for the general public as well as some specific training for Red River College students, Canadian Mennonite University students, as well as staff and students at local schools.

In the fall, technology students at Red River College will design an app for the site that citizen reporters can use to check the facts and the sources on their stories.  Erenberg said the app will intuitively suggest various local sources of research and information that could help improve the relevance and accuracy of any story.

Plans also call for the The Winnipeg Free Press newspaper to publish some of the citizen work.