Citizen Journalism — A Workshop for Writers

Oct. 9, 2011. 9 am – 12:30 pm
at the Edmonton Journal

More than ever before, news organizations are eager to invite members of the public, sometimes known as “citizen journalists,” to participate in coverage of local events and issues. This presents an opportunity to be published. Journalism, however, involves a particular kind of information-gathering and storytelling. It’s not so much about “writing what you know” as it is “writing what you didn’t know until just now, after asking the questions.”
This practical workshop will explore the skills, style and ethics that a reporter would apply to a story, and it will demonstrate how citizen journalists can use those skills to write stories of interest to a wider audience. We will discuss story idea generation, interviewing techniques and story structure, and students will have an opportunity to practise those skills in class. We will look at what local media outlets are looking for from citizen journalists, including how to pitch, what to pitch, and to whom. We will discuss what’s in it for the writer who participates in such community newsgathering efforts.

The workshop includes a guided tour of the Edmonton Journal’s community media lab and newsroom, followed by an introduction to the virtual community newsroom by Barb Wilkinson, deputy editor, innovation and engagement.
Workshop Leader: Karen Unland is a journalism educator and consultant based in Edmonton. She spent 15 years working for major daily newspapers before heading out on her own. At the Edmonton Journal she was a report, an assistant city editor, an assignment editor, and finally, the editor of She now teaches reporting and news production at Grant MacEwan University. Through Unland Media Consulting, she helps newsrooms improve their skills and adjust their thinking to adapt to the changes going on in journalism in the 21st century.