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The rise of bridge roles in news organizations
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Aug. 14, 2015, 2:22 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: medium.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   August 14, 2015

DigBoston news and features editor Chris Faraone started the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism this year because he wanted to produce more rigorous local journalism that connects with readers online and off.

The BINJ shares a mission similar to other news nonprofits that have sprung up as reporters, sometimes victims of newsroom cutbacks or seeking entrepreneurial paths of their own, try to fill the gaps in local news. The mission of the BINJ, Faraone writes, is to “produces bold reporting on issues related to social justice and innovation, and cultivates writers and multimedia producers to assist in that role.”

BINJ is operating on a shoestring budget and will rely on freelancers to tell stories about Boston neighborhoods. That can mean finding creative solutions to problems like a lack of regular office space.

Faraone decided to use that to BINJ’s advantage. By setting up shop throughout the communities the outlet wants to cover, BINJ not only has places to work, but it also connects with readers on a personal level and hears stories that might ordinarily go unreported.

BINJ Mobile was the first test of a pop-up newsroom, camping out at an event in Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. Faraone set up a desk, typewriters, and notepads to hear what community members had to say:

The comments and concerns go on, and on, and on, and our plan is to keep adding to the list and to use the info in developing and cultivating features. We also brought an old-fashioned Rolodex, and attached phone numbers to topics people know especially well. For example, a woman who lives close to an increasingly controversial complex soon to be under development is filed under the name of that construction project.

As for leads … among others, we look forward to speaking further with Allen Curry, who served as one of the first African-American firefighters in Boston following a 1973 court decree that forced minority hiring. The hostility he faced back then was brutal, and his resulting struggle with the city still endures today, more than 40 years later, as do comparable employment nightmares for countless younger people of color who have come after him. It’s hard to find that kind of community memory online; had BINJ not popped up in Dudley, and approached Curry in person, we may have never heard about his story.

It’s worth reading more of the responses Faraone collected from the community at the pop-up event to see how residents’ views of local news might differ from journalists’. If you’re interested in learning more about the BINJ — or supporting it — you can go here.

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The rise of bridge roles in news organizations
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