How The Land equips neighbors to report on their own communities

We got in touch with The Land’s Cindy Bailie to learn more about their community journalism program, “Reporting From Where We Live.”
Notebook with notes on a white table. Blue pen rests on notebook. Papers and a glass of water on the background.
Photo by Corina Rainer on Unsplash.

The Land has a clear mission: “to foster accountability, inform the community, and inspire people to take action” through in-depth coverage of Cleveland’s neighborhoods. For the most part, this mission is pursued through daily reporting. In the last couple of years, however, The Land has expanded its newsroom to include not only the voices of professional journalists, but also those of Cleveland neighbors. 

Reporting From Where We Live” is The Land’s community journalism training program, a quarterly effort that allows them to equip neighbors, community advocates and organizers with the tools needed to report on their own neighborhoods, civic issues and local politics. 

We got in touch with Cindy Bailie, Acting Executive Director at The Land, to learn more about the community journalism program. Here’s what she shared: 

Where did the idea come from, and what makes it possible?

Community journalism is an idea that has been kicking around Cleveland for a while. Amplifying the voices of residents is a shared community goal for increasing civic engagement and it has taken a few forms in Cleveland prior to The Land’s 12-week program. The Land works with a gifted curriculum writer and teacher, Charlotte Morgan, who created and also teaches the 6-week class called “Reporting From Where We Live.” We also work with external editorial mentors throughout the class and during the subsequent 6 weeks to get community journalist stories ready for publication.

How does the program work?

Participants apply to get into the class, develop and submit a simple pitch, and agree to attend all 6 classes. Students are assigned a mentor who works with them to get their drafts in shape to turn in to The Land’s managing editor, Sharon Holbrook, for final editing and publication. Community journalists are paid a stipend upon publication.

What impact has the program had so far?

The 2 dozen community journalist stories published so far by The Land are some of the most well-read articles. Here’s a sample of the feedback we receive from The Land’s community journalists:

Thank you so much for all of the support. The Land has a dynamite team to help little baby journalists such as myself, and I couldn’t be more thankful. It has been an absolute pleasure working with the Land on this project!

Just wanted to send a quick thank you for this amazing community journalism program at The Land. I appreciate the time and effort it takes mentoring and getting us and all these articles ready for their public debut. It was such a privilege meeting people from all across Cleveland who have a personal story to tell and then witnessing the birth of these stories into the larger conversations being held across our community. Thank you for this work and the opportunity to participate.

How does “Reporting From Where We Live” advance The Land’s mission?

The Land is a solutions and accountability journalism newsroom that reports on Cleveland. We are committed to publishing community voices in all of our articles as often as possible. “Reporting From Where We Live” embodies that ethos, and by opening our newsroom and sharing our platform with the community we increase the number of voices that are heard. Authentic stories from neighborhoods that have traditionally been ignored by other media outlets are amplified.

What do you envision for the future of “Reporting From Where We Live”?

For the latest cohort we had 42 applications for 12 seats, so the demand is strong. We plan to present a cohort quarterly and have a big goal to have community journalists in every neighborhood in Cleveland. 

We are also creating a strategy to scale the program beyond Cleveland and seed community journalism programs in other cities. We are running a pilot this quarter with Planet Detroit and have 5 Detroit residents in this cohort. Through our partnership with Charlotte Morgan, external mentors, and our editorial staff, we are creating and continuously improving a model that works to get residents involved in their neighborhoods to bring stories from their lived experiences to a wide audience of readers. (If you’re interested to know more, please get in touch!)

The newest “Reporting From Where We Live” cohort began their training on February 7th. You can sign up for The Land’s newsletter to read their stories as they come out and get information about future cohorts. In the meantime, here are some stories from previous cohort participants: 


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