On the Beat: New class of community journalists starts reporting


 Photo by Kevin Hollett.


For the second year in a row, Megaphone is pleased to share a selection of work produced in Community Journalism 101’s spring workshop, which ran from May 8 to June 5. This week, we'll be featuring those stories online.


This year’s selection includes reflections on learning in the Downtown Eastside; a look back at the BC Buds Spring Art Fair; profiles participants wrote about each other; plus reviews of local rock group East Van Morrison and CONNECT, the annual community art show at the Gathering Place. 


The 12 Community Journalism 101 participants shared a connection to the inner city community as current or former residents, and they all brought their own diverse perspectives and interests to the class. Some knew each other from shared neighbourhood hubs like the Gathering Place, others had previous involvement with Megaphone through its creative writing workshops or as vendors, and for others, Community Journalism 101 was an entirely new experience.


While some participants had prior creative writing experience, all were new to the field of journalism. Trying out non-fiction and journalistic writing skills proved to come naturally for some, and everyone embraced writing and discussing topics related to their neighbourhood, their personal interests, social issues and current events.


As a class we explored a number of different tools and techniques including writing letters to the editor in response to newspaper articles; practicing interview skills and writing capsule profiles about fellow classmates; learning how to put together a query letter and accessing research tools available at the local library.


In our second-last class, we had a visit from Stan Shaffer and Deyna Gillis from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House Right to Food Zine, who spoke to us about the publication and opportunities to get involved. The quarterly publication, which aims to “promote the human right to food that is healthy, nutritious, affordable and presented with dignity,” is distributed throughout the Downtown Eastside and available online.


Community Journalism 101 first began in spring 2011, when Megaphone partnered with the SFU Woodward’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. The five-week workshop, which began as a pilot project, has always focused on crafting non-fiction stories about people, ideas and events. 


The course now runs twice a year, in the spring and fall. The next Community Journalism 101 class will be held in fall 2013.


The spring 2013 workshop marks the fifth iteration of the class. With every new edition of the class, we’re constantly struck by the dedication, creativity, and wisdom of the participants who are extremely supportive of one another, very generous in what they bring to the class, and always a pleasure to learn from. 


Many thanks to all members of the class and to SFU Woodward’s for making the course possible. We hope you enjoy reading our work!


-Community Journalism 101 instructors Alexandra Samur and Jackie Wong

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