It all seems so logical: If you want to connect with your neighbors, invite them over.
That’s the concept behind one of my favorite experiments going on in journalism these days. Just a few weeks ago, the Torrington (Conn.) Register Citizen opened a newsroom café – coffee and muffins and all – where the public is invited to be a part of the process. Residents can explore the paper’s 134 years of archive material, mingle with reporters and weigh in at afternoon editorial meetings.
But for every Register Citizen, there are a dozen other newspapers seemingly unsure of what to do with newly discovered extra space in their newsrooms (the result of a decade of downsizing), with an archival bounty and with the desire to connect with the community.
This is where universities can step in. These institutions of advanced learning, these manufactured communities, have built the fiscal infrastructure, developed the resources to archive materials and honed the skills to effectively teach people.
What if universities created open newsrooms that journalists from hyperlocal or community news sites could use collaboratively? Or, what if a local newspaper opened its doors so that a university-run news site could share its space?