Community News Commons has given local citizen journalists a chance to break and share news in Winnipeg.
Although some may dismiss citizen-generated content as less than newsworthy, real successes have pushed CNC onto the radar of professional media outlets, and of newsmakers, politicians and community leaders.
CNC is built around regular six-week training sessions provided each spring and fall. Local media professionals offer instruction on all aspects of online journalism. Training and mentorship are offered free to the public, and to date, the response has been overwhelming. Budding citizen journalists are only required to sign up in advance.
In September 2012, CNC's story about local bus driver Kris Doubledee offering his shoes to a barefooted street person in downtown Winnipeg put CNC on the map. Within hours, the initial story tweet was retweeted hundreds of times, and within a day, 150,000 people had visited CNC's website to read the story. This story was so captivating, the Free Press even covered it on the front page for three consecutive days, and the bus driver ended up being flown to New York and interviewed on one of the main U.S. television networks.
Other contributions have been recognized for their excellence and garnered journalism awards, such as Red River College Creative Communications student Erika Miller's series on restorative justice, which recently received the Excellence in Journalism Award from the Eric & Jack Wells Foundation.
"Writing for CNC gave me a good sense of purpose and motivation, and I really appreciate the site publishing my series," said Miller.
CNC's primary partners -- the Winnipeg Free Press and Free Press News Café, Red River College and the Winnipeg Public Library -- have created many opportunities for joint efforts. The collaboration is a uniquely successful model among the more than 100 projects the U.S.-based Knight Foundation has funded through this international granting program.
Community News Commons (CNC) started as a little-known website in the summer of 2012 with a handful of citizen journalists and a desire to engage with people in a way that had never been done here before. In just two years, CNC has blossomed into a true community-engagement platform, with hundreds of citizen reporters sharing stories of their neighbourhoods and communities with the world.
With a groundbreaking matching grant from the Knight Foundation, the Winnipeg Foundation saw real value in this opportunity to establish and run a citizen-journalism initiative. The idea was fairly simple: We asked Winnipeggers if they had stories to share. We found out not only do Winnipeggers have stories to tell -- they want to be the storytellers.
The Winnipeg Foundation's grant in 2011 was the first and only Canadian grant made under the five-year program.
Noah Erenberg is Community News Commons's convener. He serves as editorial mentor to citizen journalists who want to publish on CNC's website. Citizen journalists can enlist his help at all stages of the process. To find out more or to contact Noah, visit www.cncwpg.org.