Community journalism is locally oriented, professional news coverage that typically focuses on city neighborhoods, individual suburbs or small towns, rather than metropolitan, state, national or world news.
If it covers wider topics, community concentrates on their effect on local readers. Community newspapers, often but not always published weekly, also tend to cover subjects larger news media do not, such as students on the honor roll at the local high school, school sports, crimes such as vandalism, zoning issues and other details of community life. Sometimes dismissed as "chicken dinner" stories, such "hyperlocal" coverage often plays a vital role in building and maintaining neighborhoods.
Leo Lerner, founder of Chicago's erstwhile Lerner Newspapers, used to say, "A fistfight on Clark Street is more important to our readers than a war in Europe."
In the United States, about 97 percent of newspapers are classified as "community" newspapers, with circulations below 50,000. Their combined circulation, nearly 109 million, is triple that of the combined circulation of the country's large daily newspapers.
An increasing number of community newspapers are now owned by large media organizations, although many rural papers are still "mom and pop" operations.
Community journalists are typically trained professional reporters and editors. Some specialized training programs have recently emerged at established undergraduate and graduate journalism programs.Community journalism should not be confused with the work of citizen journalists, who are often unpaid amateurs, or with Civic Journalism, although many community newspapers practice that.
The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which has 260 members in seven countries (U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand), encourages and promotes independent editorial comment, news content, and leadership in community newspapers throughout the world. Its purpose is to help those involved in the community press improve standards of editorial writing and news reporting and to encourage strong, independent editorial voices.
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