Dayton journalists launch free program molding and empowering citizen reporters
Four Dayton area professional journalists are training people in the skills of reporting.
They run an online site and group called — The Journalism Lab. Participants can sign up for eight sessions and learn how to turn a question or an idea into a bonafide story. And the training is free.
WYSO contributor Mary Evans is one of the founders along with International reporter Stephen Starr. He said many people have a keen perspective on things happening in their community —making them a valuable resource.
“If we can get people engaged in information gathering and the skills of how to interview somebody, we can better connect the community," believes Starr. "We also help people realize that you have a voice and that you are putting the voice of other people in front of an audience and that’s a powerful thing.”
Before moving to Beavercreek — Starr lived in Turkey.
“Turkey was a relatively free country — you had this free press. People would use satire and you had the most fantastic comics and illustrated magazines and you had a whole diversity of opinions,” recalled Starr.
But in July 2016 there was a failed coup — and Starr witnessed firsthand what happens when a government attempts to silence an independent, free press.
“Essentially almost overnight, after this failed coup, the government decided it was going to shut down the free media and they jailed thousands of reporters," reflected Starr. "To see that happen over the space of a couple of months was absolutely terrifying.”
This motivated Starr to collaborate with other Dayton area professional journalists to create The Journalism Lab. In the fall of 2020, he joined forces with WYSO Center for Community Voices Contributor Mary Evans, reporter and community advocate Nick Hrtman and veteran newspaper reporter and photographer Steve Bennish launched this project.
They’ve held six workshops training people from diverse backgrounds.
“We’ve had folks write stories on the Nazi art at Wright Patt, we’ve had stories on the bridges of Dayton and why each one is different and why they have different lighting. We’ve had folks write about the foodbank, we’ve had people highlight important voices in the community,” listed Starr. “We’ve helped immigrants and refugees write opinion pieces that have been published in local newspapers.”
On March 9, the group will host their seventh reporter training in the Gem City and Starr believes this is an ideal location for the Journalism Lab.
“Dayton is a microcosm of America on a much larger scale. We have the same segregation issues as you have on a national level around policing, the same issues around housing, the same issues around poverty and hunger,” Starr explained.
By the end of the training, most participants have at least one story idea they can potentially pitch to a news outlet.
“We also encourage people to pitch stories to national and international media. We’ve got a lot of contacts for editors who are interested in Dayton like stories that are happening in other communities in the Midwest,” Starr said.
The next session begins March 9. Learn more at The Journalism Lab.