I think I’ve just joined a revolution – thanks to Cardiff University’s new community journalism course.
Hats off to Cardiff for organising this mooc (massive online open course) – as far as I can see the first of its kind anywhere – and the fact that more than 7,000 people from around the world have signed-up shows just how much interest there is in “hyper-local” journalism. The course is aimed at developing skills and getting people engaged in journalism, which can only be good a thing – as far as I am concerned, the more journalists there are, the better.
You may wonder what a cynical old local newspaper hack like me is doing on a community journalism course – am I planning to quit the South Wales Evening Post and start my own news project? Well the answer to that is most definitely “no” – being a local paper reporter is the best job in the world; no two hours are the same never mind no two days, and the job is by turn exciting, frustrating, interesting, funny, boring, sad, upsetting, uplifting and always, always a privilege. If / when the end comes, they are going to have to pry my nails from the desk and drag me kicking and screaming from the newsroom. And believe me, I will not be going quietly.
However, it is well known that local papers are in crisis – a perfect storm of a collapse in traditional advertising revenue from the likes of recruitment; new technology; a rapidly changing news market; and, let’s be honest, abysmal and short-sighted management from the handful of big companies that dominate the business. Nobody knows what local news will look like, or how it will be organised / funded / structured in the years to come, but I do know that local news matters a great deal, and I suspect that community journalism will have an important part to play in its future.
So I decided to sign-up to the Cardiff course – to join the discussion; to meet new people; to hopefully learn a thing or two; and maybe to even pass on a bit of advice from somebody who is lucky enough to be a working journalist. I am really looking forward to it.