by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor
LANSING, Ill. (September 2018) – When The Lansing Journal launched last September, we made bold claims about “Serving Lansing’s diverse community.” At the time we were thinking in terms of identifiable ethnicities—Black, White, and Hispanic are the three largest racial percentages in our village.
So we were intentional about seeking out diverse stories, but also including diverse contributors.
In the process of becoming a newspaper for all of Lansing, we learned some new things and confirmed some things we already believed:
1. There is no “Black news” or “Hispanic news” or “White news.”
There is only “news”—and different people are interested in different stories for different reasons. For example, last month we ran a story about Charreada, or “Mexican rodeo.” Were Lansing’s Mexicans interested in that story? Yes. But for many of them, it wasn’t news. They already knew about the rodeo in Beecher! But for most of Lansing’s Blacks and Whites, the story was news—they didn’t know there was a state-wide rodeo in Beecher every year, they didn’t know it was a Mexican tradition, and they didn’t know that a Lansing businessman and his son participate. Is Charreada Hispanic news? Maybe. But more significantly, it’s Lansing news.
2. Diversity is not only about race.
And “diverse” is not code for “Black.” When we use the word diversity in The Lansing Journal, we intend its original meaning: variety. Lansing is a community made up of a variety of races, ages, faith backgrounds, income levels, professions, and traditions. We work hard to make sure we cover not only established Lansing organizations, but also newcomers and start-ups that you might not have heard of. We’ve included stories about Joe Labella as well as Joey Glowacki, the grade school science fair and the high school job fair, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, a 111th birthday and various obituaries. All this variety, all this diversity, is Lansing.
3. We want diverse participants too.
We are always looking for more journalists to help us cover Lansing news. And we believe we would be a stronger newspaper if we had more diversity in our writing team. Please understand what I mean by this—I’m not looking for a Black journalist to cover all the “Black stories” in Lansing, or a Hispanic journalist to take the “Latino beat,” or a senior citizen to cover all “senior news.” I need journalists who are different from me—in age, race, faith, and experience—because they will have networks of contacts that I don’t have. They will share story ideas that I’m unaware of. When those networks and ideas and stories become part of The Lansing Journal, we are a better newspaper, and Lansing benefits.
4. We want good journalists.
Our first consideration when adding people to the writing team is the quality of their research and writing. Professional journalism is a very specific craft that requires a mastery of certain skills—knowing whom to contact to get accurate information, conducting a professional interview, organizing all your material into a story that makes sense to a diverse readership, meeting deadlines, pitching new story ideas and being able to explain why those stories are important to Lansing. And yes, correct grammar and spelling are skills that need to be mastered too.
5. You don’t have to be a journalist to have a voice.
You do have to be a journalist to write for The Lansing Journal, but there are other ways to contribute if journalism is not your thing.
- Opinions: Submit something to our Lansing Voices feature—if it’s thoughtful and respectful, we’ll publish it.
- Story ideas: Use our “Submit news tips” form to share ideas or ask questions.
- Photos: Our award-winning “Lansing Journal journeys” feature is an invitation for anyone to submit photos and captions.
- Ads: We love seeing a diversity of businesses, churches, organizations, and events in our pages, and we appreciate your advertising support!
As we enter year two of serving the Lansing community with balanced, professional, local news, we are grateful for all the support we’ve received throughout year one. You have given us a solid foundation, and we are excited to keep building on it.
I am hoping many of you will join us in the work, using the ideas listed in Point 5 (or contacting me directly if you’re a journalist!). As I said in our launch article last September, “We are eager to keep learning and exploring new ways of gathering and sharing information, so Lansing residents can have the newspaper our community deserves.”
Well said, Melanie!
You’re doing a great job on writing about Lansing. The Hammond Times has almost forgot that Lansing exists. I learning more about Lansing thru your articles. Keep up the good work.
As Jan has responded, well said!
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