Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making a difference

Yesterday was a good community journalism day.

Yesterday I really felt I made a difference.

A TIF Commission member who had a potential conflict of interest in the proposed project resigned. It was announced immediately at a meeting that included a public hearing. This came after a story and editorial in the previous week's paper about it.

Prior to the meeting, a couple of elderly women clutched their newspaper clippings about the TIF project, with certain parts highlighted, pointing and discussing the plans. Later, when one realized who I was, she grabbed me by the arm as I walked by to stop me and thank me for the articles. It was the only way they could keep up with local government, especially this big project.

Another resident, one who sits on a couple boards and commissions in the city, also told me how much he appreciated all the articles in the newspaper.

Throughout the five-hour meeting and public hearing, people would come talk to me during the breaks and ask me questions about the TIF, articles in the newspaper, etc.

This is the mark of good community journalism: people coming together with educated opinions because of something you wrote and action following an editorial.

I also knew I was doing my job as a journalist as one of the family members of the commissioner who resigned turned around and said, "That's him" when he heard me introduce myself to someone. Another family member then turned around and told the person I was talking to, "Careful, he doesn't write what you say."

That's not true, though. I recorded the phone conversation with this man while taking notes. I told his brother what he had said and he didn't dispute it. I heard from other community members that members of that family had told them similar things. They can be mad if they want, they can think I misquoted them, but what I wrote was correct. It just put them at the center of controversy.

I stuck it out through the long public hearing as I formulated the best way to convey this in few words to the absent readers.

That's a good community journalism day.

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