Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not just working—creating

I don't simply want to work in my job position—I want to help create it.

When I was recruited to help build Chicago Tribune's TribLocal, we were a team creating our own vision. I helped establish my job duties as I performed them. I learned as I went along, and I continue learning.

When I saw a lack of citizen contributors, I established a format for community workshops and began hosting them. That idea has spread and is now one of our most common—and most successful—practices.

I walked into my editor's office more than two years ago and told him we could no longer ignore this thing called Twitter and began recruiting and teaching anyone and everyone I could to learn how to use it and other forms of social media. Now we have nearly 15,000 followers collectively and gather story ideas, readers feedback and host Tweetups with other local Twitterers.

As I began to realize there weren't enough resources for our citizen contributors, I decided to start creating them. I conceived of the TribLocal: Inside the Newsroom blog, pitched it and now co-author a blog that offers a look inside of what I believe to be one of the country's most innovative newsrooms.

Because of my leadership in the newsroom, I was selected to be one of the members of the small TribLocal Ethics and Standards Committee, where we debate and engage with each other to ensure we are creative a quality product without stifling innovation or conversation. We address issues that don't exist most other places, such as designing a format for bringing blogs to print and developing standards for citizen bylines.

My journalism background is founded in traditional reporting. I worked for years as a crime reporter, where I won an Associated Press award covering gang crimes in southeastern New Mexico, and as an education reporter. I graduated from Michigan State University's J-school, and I loved returning there to talk to future journalists about the industry and their hopes for it.

And I believe fostering community engagement—an honest, true opportunity for community members to interact with and create their news. What I do not believe is that it's the future of the news industry. In fact, I believe it is a return to the roots of journalism and the democratic spirit in which it grew. The news began, and should continue, as a shared experience.

I hope other journalists committed to engagement will collaborate with each other as we pave this path.. I am working to begin an #engageme Twitter chat with me once per month so we can all come together, share ideas and support each other in finding new ways to engage our communities.

I hope you'll follow me @triblocaltara and feel free to contact me anytime if you're interested in engagement efforts.

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About Me

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Stories are my passion—and I am an advocate for the new, engaging ways to share and create those stories. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and now live and work in the Chicago area.