In late April, the Voice of Nosara's editor Emiliana Garcia spent five weeks on sabbatical in New York City, NY, US, studying current journalism methods, particularly community-based news organizations that focus on local news and opinions.
Ms. Garcia studied with the New York Times' Mary Ann Giordano, an editor for their online newsroom, with expertise in hyper-local news and information. Ms. Garcia's study included the development of community journalism as part of a newspaper's broader reach, as well as the building of a blogger community – two initiatives the Voice of Nosara plans to undertake in the next couple of years.
Ms. Garcia also had the rare honor of visiting the New York Times' online news operations, meeting with Ms. Giordano and her editorial staff. Ms. Garcia met with reporters and contributors who are working on-the-ground to gather local news and opinions and build that into news features for both the New York Times print issues and its vast online presence.
The first NY Times local blogs started in 2009. Fort Greene and Clinton Hill http://fort-greene.thelocal.nytimes.com was one of the first, and its content is developed in collaboration with the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and local citizens in Brooklyn. In September, 2010, the NYT created the East Village Blog http://eastvillage.thelocal.nytimes.com
When asked about the beginning of The Local, Giardino said it was "hard and challenging" because they only had one reporter from the paper who was in charge of content. After one year of hard work with the Fort Greene blog, they decided to change the strategy and bring in two of the best NY journalism universities. They offered all their archives and the citizen freelance writers (which were more than one hundred by then) to CUNY, and then, they made a proposal to New York University to open a new blog in Manhattan: East Village.
The Universities brought the students on board to report and the NYT, with editor Giardino, provided supervision to ensure that the blog remains impartial, reporting-based, thorough and rooted in Times standards. "We never expected to make money, we did it for the experience," said Giardino.
Many challenges arose during the past two years and Giardino now can say that one of the keys to a successful citizen journalism based website is to "educate the public on how to participate and emphasize how journalists think. They (the citizen) should understand why we edit, why we double check, why we search for more sources," said Giardino.
Ms. Garcia asked Giardino to address the future of citizen journalism. "I see citizen journalists as partners with trained professionals. They can be the extra pair of eyes and legs that accomplish many tasks that journalist have to do. They won't replace the reporters, but the story becomes more complete in the comments that follow, in the reaction of the community," replied Giardino.
As many readers know, the Voice of Nosara has spent the last two years building a website (www.voiceofnosara.com) to both build a readership that extends beyond the borders of Nosara as well as to leverage the platform of the internet to solicit community news and opinions in real time. As Ms. Garcia learned in her visit to New York City, important community news is happening all the time and in order to have a vibrant local engagement, the Voice of Nosara must publish news and updates in real-time. Even more, the website provides the Voice of Nosara the opportunity to build a community of local contributors (drawn from our own readership) who can comment on articles directly to the site or through their Facebook profiles.
"This was a wonderful trip overall and an exciting start for the continued growth and development of the Voice of Nosara," Ms. Garcia said.