Traditionally, the term ‘community journalism’ has been reserved for small town and neighbourhood newspapers. Usually reporting on stories that have been generated directly from the community it serves, community journalism has been a way of keeping its members informed and a means of encouraging community spirit.
However things have changed and we now live in the age of the internet, and with that the definition of ‘community’, in terms of community journalism, has changed too. It is no longer restricted to a group of people connected by a common geographical location; the internet now connects us not by geography but by common interests. That means the ‘community’ in community journalism is now broadened to include groups of people who are defined by their shared interests, whether that be a hobby, vocation, life outlook or religion.
Another way in which community journalism has expanded is that who is reporting on the news within that community has changed. Instead of journalists with degrees and diplomas in the field of journalism, we are now seeing a shift to community members with little-to-no writing experience keeping the community up-to-date on the latest news happening within the community. This change helps to keep the stories grounded, real and more relatable to the average community member.
At its very essence, that is what this reinvention of community journalism should be- news and opinions from within the community, written by the community, and for the community. This core principle is also what makes community journalism interesting as any community resource, especially online resources, are only going to be as good as what the community makes them to be; a basic ‘you get what give’.
The big question to ask now is, how does this apply to us, South Africa’s Pagan community? Being South Africa’s primary Pagan community resource for numerous years, Penton should be an example of community journalism for numerous reasons.
As Penton works on a volunteer system in terms of content contributions, the sole motivation for providing content should be for the good of the community. Contributors are meant to be rooted in the local Pagan community; that should be their primary source of motivation for contributing articles, not whether or not they have enough writing experience.
Another thing that we, as a community, should be doing is reporting more on what happens within our community. We need to start viewing what happens to us and amongst us as important. If a coven has a new High Priestess, a new Pagan group is formed, an event held- it should be viewed as being newsworthy and reported on. This not only helps to keep everyone clued up, but in turn helps build a greater sense of community spirit.
There are more ways we can build on that community spirit. By sharing wisdom and knowledge, we help to build each other up. That can be done in the way of sharing information through articles like philosophical essays, informative pieces and even simple how-to guides. And while it is wonderful to share information that appeals to the intellect, it is just as important to celebrate creativity. As a media resource for Pagans and alternative faith adherents, Penton should also extend itself to publishing more creative works such as short stories, poetry and artwork in the spirit of sharing and celebrating creativity and as a source of inspiration for others.
However, at the end of the day it all links back to the core principle of community journalism being created by the community, for the community. If we want to build a strong Pagan community, one way of achieving that is through community journalism; but it needs the involvement of the community in order to make it work. That is why, as editor, I appeal to you, the readers, to embrace the true spirit of community journalism and become more involved- share your stories, your news, your opinions, your creative works and expressions, and together we can build a strong and richer community.
If you want to become more involved and help build Penton as a resource for the SA Pagan community, contact the editor via firstname.lastname@example.org