A Call for Citizen Journalists in New Jersey

Citizen journalists in New Jersey have an unprecedented opportunity to report news about their towns, according to the editor of www.freehold.injersey.com.

"The injersey.com website lists 14 communities where local news stories are published online and a few more are about to come online," said Editor Colleen Curry. "All of the editors actively solicit stories from citizen journalists."

The injersey.com websites are owned by Gannett New Jersey, and the editors for the websites are journalists who work for one of the local Gannett papers. Curry said the editors have three tasks: Original content writing, oversee content and to solicit contributions.

To date, most of the original content writing has been done by the journalists on staff at the various Gannett papers in the area.

To write for any injersey.com newspaper, a citizen journalist must become a member, which is only a matter of registering. To date, they have nearly 1,500 members. However, this significant number of members has not translated into as much citizen generated news as the injersey.com designers want, according to Curry.

User generated stories are not edited, according to Curry. "I check the stories and if they are inappropriate, I can unpublish them, but most often all I need to do is contact the writer to ask for some changes and that seems to work."

In an attempt to solicit more news, Curry has just opened what she calls a Coffee Shop Newsroom in a local coffee shop. A computer workstation is now available for use by any citizen who wants to sit down and submit a news story.

At the workstation, a sign says, "The journalist is in!" Citizen journalists use that sign while they are submitting news. When the workstation is open, they have another sign that says, "What’s the Scoop?" intended to invite citizens to contribute news.

"The Coffee Shop Newsroom has created quite a buzz for us," Curry said. "The regular coffee shop visitors see our citizen journalists writing stories and visit with them about what they are doing."

In her ongoing attempt to attract more citizen journalists, Curry partnered with Citizens’ Campaign of New Jersey (www.jointhecampaign.com) and held a citizen journalist workshop. The class was designed to prepare average citizens to research and report responsibly what happens in their communities.

"We had a dozen people come to our workshop – fewer than we had hoped for - but they were very engaged in the whole idea of citizen journalism. I was very impressed."

Freehold.inJersey.com and all injersey.com websites can receive video, audio and written reports from citizens.

They continue to actively seek news stories from citizen journalists, an open door for citizens who want to write and report news in any one of the injersey.com areas.

One additional benefit that could come your way as a writer for injersey.com: if your story is relevant and well written it has a good chance of making it into the print editions of one of the Gannett owned newspapers.