News

Batten Professor to Discuss Community Journalism

by Bill Giduz
David Boraks
David Boraks promotes DavidsonNews.net at a Chamber of Commerce business expo in Baker Sports Center.

Davidson College invites the public to attend a lecture about the evolving landscape of community-based journalism at 7:30 p.m, Dec. 5, in Tyler-Tallman Hall of the Sloan Music Center.

David Boraks, the founder of local news website DavidsonNews.net will speak about "CommunityNews-dot-Net: How the Web is Transforming Community News - and Communities." Boraks is serving this semester as the James K. Batten Professor of Public Policy at Davidson. There is no charge to attend the lecture.

Boraks' career in journalism began as a newspaper delivery boy. "People used to wait at their front doors to receive their papers," he recalled. "That's when I realized that there was something in the paper that people really wanted."

But there has been a significant change since that time in the way his neighbors consume the news. "Nowadays I walk down my street and find newspapers sitting outside well after rush hour," he said. "This is a sign that, even as people cling to old-fashioned newspapers, their habits are changing. There is still an audience hungry for local news, but readers are more likely to get it on the web or in another electronic form."

Boraks said that many newspaper executives are hoping to save hard copy journalism, but in his talk he will offer a different strategy. "Though readers have moved away from paper, there is a vibrant collection of websites that report local news, adhere to journalistic standards and ethics, and provide the same service as traditional newspapers," he said.

Boraks explained that he updates DavidsonNews.net continually with stories ranging from house fires to ribbon-cutting ceremonies at local businesses. "Even if there is a power outage late at night, we are reporting on the issue," Boraks said. "I've even covered a story before using my smart phone on an airplane."

Students Get Hands-On Experience

Boraks has explored the shifting landscape of news media both in his career and in his class on "Community Journalism." He said, "DavidsonNews.net has received a lot of attention from researchers, and it is featured as a case-study in the textbook I'm using. It's one of few around the country that produces very local news exclusively on the web."

His students spend half of their time discussing the evolution of the news industry, and the other half producing local news pieces for a class website. "My students have written stories, produced videos and designed graphics concerning stories both on and off campus," he said.

Boraks added that many of his students' stories have appeared in The Davidsonian student newspaper and on DavidsonNews.net. "It's great that some of their stories actually see the light of day," he said.

Boraks said that teaching Community Journalism has inspired him to offer a similar course to the broader Davidson community. "An important part of operating a local news website is training community journalists to provide the content that we need," he said. "I would like to offer a version of my course to the community to help people better understand what I do."

Learn more about Boraks.