People holding signs for the four organizations that make up SLCJI

St. Lawrence Launches Citizen Journalism Incubator

Four Local Organizations, One Goal

Morgan Brashear ’19

Four organizations in the North Country joined together to develop the St. Lawrence Citizen Journalism Incubator (SLCJI). This new initiative  is designed to provide North Country students and residents with the opportunity to receive training and support for conducting independent, investigative journalism projects in their communities.

The Weave News, North Country Public Radio (NCPR), The Hill News, and Nature Up North created the SLCJI with funding from a St. Lawrence University Innovation Grant, a grants program that began in 2010 to fund small projects that enhance the campus and surrounding community.

The four organizations bring a range of expertise to students and North Country residents who wish to participate in citizen journalism, the collection and analysis of information and news by the general public. 

“We wanted to find a way to be more active in our local community and to help promote the idea of citizen journalism here in the North Country,” stated John Collins, professor of global studies and founder and director of development for the Weave News, an organization focused on underreported news, advocacy, and activism.

Assistant News Director of NCPR David Sommerstein brings national and international news reporting standards to the project. Sommerstein hopes that the program will result in news stories the radio station will be able to share with listeners throughout the North Country and Adirondack region, western Vermont, and southeastern Ontario.

“We’re happy to support an initiative that pulls back the curtain on how journalism works and teaches people the skills and ethical considerations they need to keep in mind when they pursue an issue in their community,” he says.

St. Lawrence’s award-winning weekly student newspaper, The Hill News, and Nature Up North, a community-based organization at St. Lawrence raising awareness of local ecosystems and natural conservation efforts, are also teaming up as part of the incubator.

All four organization collaborate in training opportunities for aspiring citizen journalists and share the work of mentoring a cohort of the SLCJI’s investigative storytellers. Projects were selected through proposals reviewed by the partnering organizations, and participants will spend several months carrying out their projects before presenting their work at a public symposium to be held in April 2019. 

“It has been incredibly exciting to see the range of important topics and stories reflected in the proposals,” Collins says. “These include the struggles of undocumented workers, the local impact of climate change, ongoing issues with toxic waste cleanup, new approaches to sustainable farming, problems associated with mass incarceration, the impact of budget cuts on local education, and challenges facing students of color on local campuses.”

If the projects are successful and the partners can continue to secure funding for future initiatives, Collins believes St. Lawrence County could become an important hub for creative and impactful citizen journalism work.

“This project will help empower ordinary people by giving them the tools to bring to light issues that too often go underreported in their communities,” says Collins.