• In conjunction with practitioners in the field, Ursuline has developed modular units on the theme of local and hyper-local journalism, demonstrating how students can utilize and activate their voices for positive change in their communities. The organization and content of the course is aimed at addressing the changing landscape of journalism and the precarious nature of our media ecosystem in the 21st-century in which traditional forms of reporting are constantly challenged and underfunded. The class encourages students to understand that local journalism is vital to a healthy community, a vibrant democracy, and for cultivating engaged citizenry. Therefore, the course emphasizes that students, regardless of major, can use the skills of regional storytelling to fight for positive change.
    Trostel spent the spring in collaboration with and outreach to three new and existing community partners in order to think through the possibility of a modular, community-based journalism course. The partners have worked together to develop modular units on the theme of local and hyper-local journalism, demonstrating how students can utilize and activate their voices for positive change in their communities. The organization and content of the course is aimed at addressing the changing landscape of journalism and the precarious nature of our media ecosystem in the 21st-century in which traditional forms of reporting are constantly challenged and underfunded. The class encourages students to understand that journalism is vital to a healthy community, a vibrant democracy, and for cultivating engaged citizenry. Therefore, the course emphasizes that students, regardless of major, can use the skills of regional storytelling to fight for positive change.
    The first modular unit of the course will be taught by Christopher Johnson of Literary Cleveland (https://www.litcleveland.org/). He will review not only the basics of journalism, but touch upon the genre of solutions journalism, defined as: “rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.” Students will be encouraged to think through identifiable and concrete issues that they see in their own communities and how they might use their voices and the power of narrative to shed light on potential paths forward.
    The next module will be taught by Raechel Anne Jolie of Belt Magazine (https://beltmag.com/). As their mission statement suggests, Belt aims to tell the story of the Rust Belt region, recognizing the power of cultivating meaningful stories about place: “Belt Magazine is a digital publication by and for the Rust Belt and greater Midwest. Founded in 2013 as an antidote to shallow, distorted representations of the region, we challenge simplistic national narratives by paying local journalists, writers, photographers, and poets to cover their communities with depth, context, and the kind of rich insight that can only come from a deep relationship with a place.” Using Belt Magazine articles, alongside other scholarly work to contextualize the readings, Dr. Jolie will lead students through coursework to help them build skills as regional thinkers, writers, and citizens. Possible theme ideas might include housing, environmental justice, race, labor, etc. Jolie will lead students through discussion and activities that allow them to learn about their region through journalism that is committed to history and context. The final portion of the module will be devoted to building skills for students to write their own nuanced, context-driven regional story, with the end result of being published in (or in relation to) the magazine.
    The final unit of the course will be facilitated by the non-profit, locally-owned newsroom, The Land (https://www.thelandcle.org/): “The Land is a local news startup that reports on Cleveland’s neighborhoods and inner ring suburbs. We deliver in-depth stories that foster accountability, inform the community, and inspire people to take action.” In 2021, they have outlined the following goals:
    • Using our voices to tell our community’s stories and examine our greatest challenges;
    • Reporting on efforts to address job creation, development and social equity in the city of Cleveland;
    • Building a newsroom and publication that look like the community we serve.
    In this portion of the course, students will focus on community news reporting. As their proposal states, “This four-week course module will engage student participants in learning the basics of hyperlocal news reporting. Together we will examine the fundamentals of local reporting, read sample news stories and talk about how they work, practice the skills of research, developing questions, and conducting interviews, and work in small groups on writing news stories. Participants have an opportunity for their stories to get published in The Land, a startup local news organization that reports on Cleveland’s neighborhoods.”
    We hope that through these direct engagements with models of 21st-century newsrooms and journalism organizations that students will:
    1) Have the chance to use their voice to affect social change in their communities;
    2) Have the opportunity to publish their work and gain hands-on experience in the field of journalism;
    3) Learn transferrable writing skills that are important regardless of major;
    4) Recognize the important role of journalism and engaged citizens in cultivating healthy regional ecosystems.