You are viewing the print version of this article. Click here to view the full version.
Columbia Missourian

Big news comes in small packages with the neighborhood newsletter project

By Tom Warhover
June 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Earlier this year I wrote to you about the Missourian’s Neighborhood Newsletters project. Here’s a status report.

It’s largely a good news story. E-mail newsletters are now delivered to 10 neighborhoods, and almost 1,000 people have subscribed so far.

Each newsletter goes out about every two weeks (though it might be more like three in the summer). Stories are generated by Missourian reporters and by citizens. The news ranges from a neighborhood association meeting announcement to controversy over roads or trash.

From mid-January to May, more than 50 newsletters were produced.

The newsletter team wanted to deliver news to a tighter geographic center. A street repair on Cherry Hill Drive isn’t much news to people who live and work on the east side of town, but it’s of intense interest to the people of Cherry Hill.

The team also wanted a publication by neighbors. That’s why e-mails began with “East Campus Neighborhood E-News,” for instance, rather than “The Missourian Neighborhood E-News.” In fact, I hoped that advertising revenue could be channeled back to the neighborhoods for community projects or parties.

There has been mixed success.

Team members agreed they needed to work more to help residents offer their own news. The advertising effort didn’t really get off the ground enough to assess whether it could work. More than once, I wanted to scream at the computer when residents couldn’t get their newsletter because of technology glitches.

But I sure did like the stories.

I just pulled one newsletter, from Parkade, off the shelf. (Yes, it’s printed out – paper and ink still works for me.) The two student-reporters for the semester, Danny Mathis and Carol Nichols, published stories on the Providence Road extension project; a job shadowing day at Parkade Elementary; a profile of a veterinarian; an annual school talent show; a grocery store planned for the neighborhood; and the opening of a funeral home.

The reporters were responsible for more. They walked the beat — literally — to spread the word about the newsletter and encourage folks to participate by subscribing through e-mail addresses and submitting stories.

The reporters I spoke with talked about their neighborhoods with a sense of ownership, even though most of them lived elsewhere. 

Vannah Shaw, a reporter in the Douglass neighborhood, graduated last month. In her final note on a class blog, she said: “I hope this project continues at the Missourian. I almost wish I could stick around and continue to work on it.”

The newsletter team is honoring that wish. The project continues this summer and through the fall as we — the neighborhood residents and the Missourian — learn whether the endeavor can be sustained.

I’ll update you again later.