By Jennifer Neutel
Voices participant says experience a high point
Since participating in a program that trains citizens to produce community journalism, Ronald Owens says he feels more confident to interview people and write a publishable story.
Owens participated in the 2012 Oakland Voices class, a program run by the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism in partnership with the Oakland Tribune. The nine-month program aims to put the power of storytelling in the hands of East Oakland residents who often have a unique perception of their neighborhood.
The 10 participants produce regular stories for posting on the Oakland Voices website and some are printed in the Oakland Tribune newspaper and website. Oakland Voices is starting its third class this year.
Owens enjoyed the camaraderie among participants. Meeting on a regular basis, the correspondents got to know each other well and had similar goals of showing a more community-oriented view of Oakland, Calif., says Owens.
In addition to writing, Owens learned fact-checking and researching skills. He took photos and conducted video interviews, and also used his illustration background to add to some of his work.
“I feel more equipped to go out and do a story or (something media-related) — whether on YouTube, Twitter, social media, just to have a presence,” Owens says.
A memorable moment from the program for Owens was the reaction on a piece he authored about the public outcry that occurs when police shoot someone, yet the same response isn’t garnered from a black person shooting another black person.
The piece created a lot of buzz, and after appearing in the Sunday paper it was one of the top-read stories. It was a good experience to have so many comments come in about the article, whether it was from people who agreed or disagreed, says Owens.
Another takeaway for Owens is what not to do, he says, noting there are some items he wishes he hadn’t written.
“You learn what limits you should keep for yourself,” he says.
The program made Owens more aware of what journalists go through to do their work. He says all the people he met who work at the Oakland Tribune were genuine and dedicated to their jobs.
“It was a great, well-run program and I think really comprehensive to give me the basics to go out and do community journalism,” Owens says, noting it was a personal high point.
Oakland Voices has expanded into a larger program called Voices. Sacramento Voices is launching this year. Visit http://oaklandvoices.us to learn more.
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Oakland Voices empowers citizen journalism
— Oakland Voices is one of three pilot sites participating in the ASNE/Journalism That Matters partnership exploring how and why news organizations are engaging with their communities. This story is written by Axiom News.
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