Community reporters vital to community newspapers

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, June 15, 2023

An Editorial Opinion of The Greenville Advocate

Editor & Publisher magazine featured an article titled “Citizen Reporters Play a Vital New Role” by Gretchen A. Peck in its June 2023 issue. In the article, Peck pointed out that the need for citizen journalism is on the rise and local news media publishers are considering whether and how to embrace community reporting.

Community newspapers, like the Advocate have realized the vital role citizens play in community news. In a small town community with something of a “Mayberry” feel, hasn’t caused editorial staff to wonder whether and how to embrace community reporting. Instead, the natural southern hospitality response has been an invitation to “pull up a chair and stay awhile” coupled with a request to “tell us your story.”

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One Wednesday morning, several Butler County citizens stopped by the paper’s Greenville office. Joyce Till felt compelled to deliver a copy of an ad she received, featuring a May 1893 advertisement in the Advocate which promoted a product to cure chicken fleas. Later that day, local Hubbard Smith came in to see if the office needed its grass cut and left with the intention to submit an article for the faith column.

Lowndes County local Larry “Tadpole” Forest has been an important connection for news in the 45. He has sent us tips which led to timely reporting for two ‘breaking news” stories and several other features through the years.

Without his reporting, Lowndes readers would not have received up-to-the-minute details related to an abandoned car in Hayneville connected to a double murder in Tuscaloosa. They would also have missed same-day details when the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office arrested a very dangerous person.

Crenshaw County residents value that small-town, personal connection. More than a few Friday nights, staff reporters have received late night calls from Sheriff’s investigators, and shared news about missing persons, enabling community members to help locate the person and report information through social media.

Community newspapers rely on community reporting. The Advocate values community journalists and welcomes persons who want to stop by, have a cup of coffee, and tell us their stories.