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May 6, 2019, 8 a.m.

This New Jersey project shows the power of collaboration — even at the student level

“Anyone who works with students today in the news and public-affairs arena had better be ready to do as much learning as teaching.”

This piece is from our sister publication Nieman Reports.

This is a tough time for journalism. Resources are down, news deserts spread into once fertile terrain, and the prognosis for impactful journalism on the local level is perilous.

Consider then, the following:

A collaboration of young journalists, producers, and social media experts decide to focus on the hot button issue of the day: immigration.

Over the course of a few days, they produce 32 articles and photo essays that appear on a dedicated website and in a print newspaper, and are distributed broadly via social media; create a two-hour live TV show broadcast across New Jersey; produce over 10 hours of radio programming; convene a community-wide colloquium on personal stories of coming to America; erect a centrally located booth where participants upload their own family stories; and create a series of online pieces, combining text, video, and graphics. Among the pieces: a young Bangladeshi immigrant who is now a city hall official in his town, a small borough known as Little Poland, and the dramatic story of a LGBTQ Nigerian activist and his travails with the U.S immigration system.

This multiplatform project is a template for how to produce journalism in the 21st century: no silos, free sharing of information, collaborative to the extreme. It involves many partners — some working together, others working on parallel paths — without strong central coordination.

Yet this project was not executed by professionals. Though conceived by faculty, it was produced and reported by students at Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media, where I coordinate the News Lab and teach journalism, television, and digital media.

And it all started with a hashtag.

Mark Effron coordinates the News Lab at Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media and teaches journalism and television and digital media.

Photo courtesy Montclair State University.

POSTED     May 6, 2019, 8 a.m.
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