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Rep J to Help Main Street Understand Fiscal Crisis

Our Representative Journalism project in Northfield, Minnesota is taking on a big challenge that has always faced news organizations. How can a big international story like the International Economic Meltdown be translated to hyperlocal reporting? We are giving it a try. First some background.

I am the person behind the Representative Journalism project that is taking place in Northfield, Minnesota via the Locally Grown blog. As many of you know, Bonnie Obremski, thanks to Harnisch Foundation funding, is now Northfield’s very own Rep J reporter.

Today in Northfield we are asking her to put all of her energies toward helping the folks of Northfield understand how the economic crisis is affecting their town. Griff Wigley, who along with Tracy Davis and Ross Currier runs Locally Grown, first posted about the economic meltdown in mid-September. Since then almost 200 comments have been added to that post.

In that post Griff wrote in part:

Looks like a real meltdown. Let’s try to make sense of it… especially how it might impact things locally.

Here was my comment today at Locally Grown addressed to the good folks of Northfield:

So why not add some evidence-based reporting by Bonnie Obremski to this discussion? Who are key people with whom she should be speaking? What stories could she do to answer your questions on how this economic crisis might affect Northfield? What effects are already taking place that should be reported in greater detail?

I have asked her to concentrate on what we are calling Spotlight on the Economy — she needs your help, your ideas.

The idea is for her to provide evidence based reporting and for all of you at Locally Grown to put the stories into a greater context, build upon what she finds, provide story ideas, tell your personal stories and when appropriate suggest ways to act on those stories.

I do believe with that combination of her reporting and your contextualizing we will have a greater understanding of what all this means to your private lives and to the public life of Northfield.

Then in a later comment at Locally Grown I wrote about the biggest challenge for any local reporter:

There is no way that Bonnie is going to do the international banking aspects of this story. She will do the local story. How is the fiscal crisis affecting Main Street and your neighbors right in Northfield?

Of course, the international banking story affects the local economy in profound ways. The Rep J/Locally Grown community’s challenge is to make sense of something which is driven by forces far from home.

We’ll keep you posted on developments as this phase of our Representative Journalism experiment in Northfield moves forward.

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About RJ

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    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at PJNet.org.

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    Representative Journalism, a term coined by Leonard Witt, aims to build sustainable journalism one small group at a time.

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