A screenshot of a webpage. Along the top of the page is an image of the San Fernando Sun newspaper. At the top left is the Sun's logo, which is black and red and written in a sans serif text. To the right of the logo is the Sun's logo but in Spanish. It is red and in serif font. There is a teaser in the right corner with a photo of a person in a yellow shirt. Below the masthead is a black banner with the date, volume number. Hovering just over the photo is an emoji of a handshake. Below the photo is the title of the page "Community Contributor Program" written in black, sans serif text. There is a paragraph of text in black sans serif font beneath it.

A screenshot of the Community Contributor Program Toolkit. Toolkit Toolkit: Julie Freijat. Photo: San Fernando Valley Sun

The Community Contributor Program Toolkit

Provide your community with broader, innovative coverage while involving community members in the newsmaking process

Local newspapers thrive when they successfully develop and maintain a close and trusting relationship with the communities they serve.

Our collaboration with Media in Color and the San Fernando Valley Sun aimed to harness and nurture this relationship to reinvent how high school sports are covered in the San Fernando Valley. 

We created this Community Contributor Program Toolkit, which documents every step we took during the process of creating the program, and includes a treasure trove of supplemental information. While not exhaustive, the toolkit is an adaptable document that is intended to provide newsrooms with tips and resources that will aid them in reproducing our program for your own efforts. It also includes a template for the community contributor survey we used to reach out to our community stakeholders.

Though our project was primarily focused around high school sports, the program can be adjusted to be used for other kinds of topical coverage areas.  Ultimately, the goal of a community contributor program should be to provide the community with broader, innovative coverage while involving community members in the newsmaking process. 

Key takeaways 

  • Research is critical to ensuring you are adequately prepared to handle any obstacles that might arise during your program. Thoroughly understanding the content you want to report on and making connections with the people involved in it will set you up for success.
  • The core of the program is communication. Establishing and maintaining communication with stakeholders in your community is essential to the success of your program. Your newsroom needs to be willing to call and email and meet the people who you want to work with. It is important they know who you are and what you want to do.
  • Ask your community what they want. The ultimate goal of your program is to serve your community by providing them with needed coverage, and asking for their input establishes mutual trust. It also provides a good opportunity to reflect on other ways your newsroom can improve their coverage.

How to use this toolkit

This toolkit is intended to guide newsrooms in developing a community contributor program. It is not an exhaustive list of all possible methods or outcomes for building such a program, but is intended rather to be a starting point and loose guide. 

This toolkit was designed to be a living document and is open for comments. Tell us what areas we should expand or add. To chat more, contact us here

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