Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about what “community” means. Really, it seems like a pretty simple concept — it’s a group of people, maybe defined by a region or common interest. But I think this misses some measure of action from everyone involved.
Here’s my makeshift definition of community: a group that comes together around a given purpose, interest or goal. It’s mutually beneficial and aims to support all those involved.
And so I think community journalism, something Southern Neighbor has been doing for 15 years as of next month, has to fit into this definition. After some thought, I realized Southern Neighbor, as it is right now, doesn’t. We write about the news but we don’t always interact with it — but that changes now.
To interact more with all of you — and be a better community magazine — this fall we’ll be starting two new programs: a community board and a book club.
One thing that I think makes any news organization stronger is perspective, which is what we aim to achieve in our community board. The board is open to any and all community members — long-time residents, newcomers, business owners and everyone in between. You don’t have to write columns if you join the board, but for the first time we can offer space in our magazine every month for a board member’s column.
I’ve already heard a few wonderful ideas for columns from readers, like ones dealing with cooking or nature, and I’m excited to hear from all of you who are interested about what you’d want to write about.
Besides being a platform for community columns, I want this board to serve as a connecting point for different members of the community and us at Southern Neighbor. We will meet monthly to discuss important topics in our communities and plan editorials, for which there will always be online space.
As applying for the board goes, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information by the beginning of October:
-Why are you interested in being on the board?
-Where in the community are you from?
-And, if you want to write a column, what would you like to write about?
Once the board gets organized, I’ll open up the application again for more community members to apply and join.
Our other new program, the Southern Neighbor book club, also aims to bring us together as a community. Every month, we’ll pick a book written by a local author and at the end of the month we’ll meet to discuss the book and hold a meet-and-greet with the author — which means there are two different ways you can participate!
Firstly, if you’re a local author, we want to hear from you! Though I’m definitely excited to do some research and talk to bookstore owners in search of local authors, we need a book for our first month pronto! A spot in every month’s Southern Neighbor will be reserved for a short excerpt of that month’s book club book, to boot!
Secondly, if you’re a bibliophile like me, these events should be great fun and an even greater way to meet your neighbors! And, as an added bonus, I swear on all my journalistic integrity that I will try my best to host each event somewhere that sells coffee, or at least bring some coffee along!
On a serious note, this is just a jumping off point for us. I’m not going to pretend that starting this board and holding book club events makes us supremely integrated into the community, but I think it’s a good start. I’ll end this letter the same way I ended my first one: with me asking a favor.
I wouldn’t have gotten the idea to start this community board without you (yeah, you!) reaching out to me and showing your interest in writing about topics important to you (and a little help from my colleagues in getting this idea together). So please, keep reaching out to me. Even if you don’t want to be a part of the board (though I promise there is a place for you here!) I want to continue to hear from you about what’s important to you so I can continue to make Southern Neighbor a more involved part of this community.
And, as always, if you want to grab coffee and chat, I’m always here.