“Trent Radio doesn’t make radio, our community does,” says Jill Staveley, the station’s director. The campus radio station based in Peterborough, Ontario, aims to empower community members with educational opportunities in broadcasting to fill the airwaves.
People working and volunteering at the station have backgrounds in music production, community outreach, broadcast technology and recording arts. There’s just one thing often missing: news and journalism.
So when Trent Radio successfully applied for funding to hire a full-time local journalist through the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) — the Canadian government’s answer to local news poverty — they knew they needed help.
Having worked with Peterborough Currents in the past, a reader-funded independent news outlet founded in 2017 as a podcast, they saw a way forward.
“The opportunity through the LJI was daunting on our own,” says Jill. But with mentorship and training from this “valuable grassroots news source,” they could reach their education goals and the goals of the LJI program while building relationships to strengthen Peterborough Currents.
As compensation for the training and mentorship, Trent Radio pays Peterborough Currents $1,000 per month. As a bonus, Peterborough Currents can repackage the local journalist’s broadcast stories on its podcast and post transcripts to its website.
Trent Radio hired Eddy Sweeney for the position this spring.
For Will Pearson, publisher and editor of Peterborough Currents, “It means there’s one more full-time journalist working in Peterborough, which is great for our community.” With more quality local news stories being surfaced, while bringing in a little extra revenue, he describes the collaboration as a “win-win-win.”
Moving from competition to collaboration is something organizations like the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) and the Center for Cooperative Media have long encouraged as a way to maximize impact in an industry with, in many cases, fewer resources.
“So when you have those shared values of wanting to strengthen your journalism by being collaborative, that increases trust with the communities in the media organizations. And it helps do journalism that might not be done because of lack of resources,” says SJN’s director of collaboratives Amy Maestas in an interview with Gateway Journalism Review.
“The reason this works so well is because we both have similar missions but we’re working in different mediums,” says Will. “And so there’s a natural complementarity.”
With no formal training in journalism, Eddy says he was a little nervous even applying for the journalism role. “But I do love the community. I appreciate meaningful news. And I wanted to kind of do all I could to join that.”
“My role at first was just kind of like walking him through, what is a news article?” Will recalls. “How do you do the news in Peterborough? Who do you need to know? And where do I think the gaps are that you can fill.”
Content created with LJI funding is already licensed as Creative Commons and can be republished by any news outlet. But Will’s mentorship helps to ensure that Eddy’s stories are suitable for the Peterborough Currents’ readership. “Having a little bit of a heads up on what Eddy is working on as a journalist helps us to use that content more effectively.”
One of Eddy’s recent stories about a local cafe committed to a living wage clearly resonated, as it was widely shared on Peterborough Current’s social media. He’s now working on some more complex, multi-source stories. “[This partnership] not only helps me but it also helps [Peterborough Currents] expand the number of voices and the range of stories they have on their podcast,” he says.
While fundraising is always a challenge, Jill hopes the relationship continues even after the year-long LJI grant runs out. “When you are able to look at the type of news and journalism that’s being created by something like Peterborough Currents, it’s speaking about our town, it’s speaking to our town, it’s our town’s voices,” says Jill, contrasting it with larger newspapers from nearby cities.
“Being able to amplify that on the radio as well is an incredible opportunity,” she says. “But also to empower and educate more people about the creation of news and journalism, and not just by going to school.”
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