Citizen Journalism in the Community and the Classroom

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Public Journalism 2.0: The Promise and Reality of a Citizen Engaged Press

Publication Date



We-town.com is a dual-purpose citizen journalism website launched in April 2008 in the small central Pennsylvania town of Elizabethtown. One purpose of the site is to provide a place for community members to share news that is important to them, using audio, video, pictures and text. Second, it is a teaching tool for students in the Department of Communications at Elizabethtown College. This site offers students a chance to tell stories using various types of media. So far, the site has been successful at allowing students to pursue multimedia storytelling, and also at engaging community members in debate over local issues in a converged media environment. Typically such sites have been launched at large universities with large journalism programs, but the we-town project is unique in that it is housed at a small comprehensive college. (Elizabethtown College has about 2, 000 students, with about 150 Communications majors.) Developing a project such as this on a small campus, in a small town, has both opportunities and challenges. This chapter highlights lessons learned in the launching of we-town.com, advice on effective use of a citizen journalism site as a teaching tool, and ways to use such sites to facilitate community storytelling. The chapter also highlights the site’s stance on gatekeeping and censorship, namely that no explicit rules about appropriateness of content are set forth for contributors.

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