Image credit: Courtney Phelps

WHEN I was three years old, I decided to pursue a career as a coconut picker.

The job market wasn’t great, given I lived in an inner city Brisbane suburb without so much as one scraggly coconut tree in sight.

Also, I was three.

Fortunately, I changed my mind almost weekly depending on what job sounded most appealing at the time.

I went from nurse to teacher to doctor to chef with no regard for my own skills (or lack thereof) and what I would actually be good at.

Spoiler alert: I ultimately settled on journalism. Amidst widespread fears of job cuts, newspapers dying, and media outlets still grappling with the new digital world, I felt like I had found my tribe.

My eyes opened to the fact that while I didn’t have the stomach to be a nurse or a doctor, or the culinary inspiration to be a chef, I could write about them.

I approached CitizenJ for an internship last April, as I had always been interested in grassroots community organisations and the ways they tackle coverage of social issues.

I leapt at the opportunity to chase stories I was personally fascinated by, helping to create a ‘megastory’ that sought out interesting community engagement projects in Brisbane and beyond.

Working alongside other contributors, we created an interactive online map for people to visually understand the services provided in their area, and to raise awareness for the valuable work carried out by these organisations every day.

We poked into little known crevices of the community, just to chat with people and see what they were doing.

The work was at times both heartwarming and heartbreaking, watching organisations doing so much good struggle with issues like budget cuts or volunteer shortages.

Of course, the unique thing about CitizenJ is that you don’t need a background in journalism to contribute to their growing collection of stories.

In fact, unlike my encounters with other media organisations, producing editorial content was only part of my CitizenJ experience.

Instead, what seemed almost equally important was the relationships fostered in the community – internally within the network of contributors and newsroom facilitators, but also the connections made with broader society in general.

It meant that we told our stories from both perspectives – while we were reporting issues happening in the community, we in turn were the community ourselves.

It was personally eye-opening to work with other citizen journalists who had not studied journalism at university, and who relished the opportunity to actually engage in the process of covering news when they were used to being relegated to the sole role of ‘audience’ by mainstream media.

I would encourage anyone with a story to tell and interested in learning about media production to look into contributing for CitizenJ.

The experience has taught me a great deal about create content based on investigative procedures that privilege listening, individual voice, local autonomy and community awareness-raising.

You might find the work just as infectious.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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  • Lauren Lucas

    It’s fine to write for free when you are studying to build up your portfolio but people shouldn’t write for free for very long because it devalues peoples ability to be paid for their work. No one will pay for stories if there is content available for free!

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