Get out of the newsroom and into the community

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When I started my first journalism job at a medium-sized newspaper, I was surprised by how many reporters rarely left their desks to do their work. It wasn’t that they were lazy or not producing stories — they just did their reporting over the phone. Now that e-mail, Google, and other internet technologies are a permanent fixture in newsrooms, many more journalists are doing their work from the comfort of their chairs.

This is why I was excited when California Watch, the investigative reporting team for which I serve as a multimedia producer, announced the “Open Newsroom.” For one day, the California Watch team is hitting the streets in neighborhoods around the state and inviting readers to come chat with us, share ideas, or just share a cup of coffee.

The idea was born out of necessity — the team is transitioning to a new work space — but I personally love the idea of going into the community and inviting readers to meet us face-to-face. Journalists are already doing this somewhat using social networks like Twitter to interact with readers, but nothing beats in-person interaction.

Shortly after I discovered my colleagues at my first newsroom were conducting most of their reporting over the phone, I was introduced to the concept of “parachute journalism,” or visiting a community only to cover a story and then leaving shortly after. Journalists should avoid parachuting into communities and should whenever possible get out of the newsrooms and meet the people in the communities they cover.

As for me, you can catch me at the Starbucks at 2224 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 19. Drop by and say hello and let’s see if we can’t make journalism a little more awesome.

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