Student Journalists and Northfield.org Collaborate Via “Pressville”

Regular visitors to Northfield.org may have noticed with curiosity a small addition in the lower right hand column of the site (also available here), labeled “student journalism.” These stories are the result of a new collaboration between a Carleton classroom’s website, Pressville.org, and Northfield.org, and will be featured regularly throughout the course of the class.

Professor Doug McGill leads the course, an English department offering titled “A Journey In Journalism.” Twenty-two Carleton students, ranging from freshmen to seniors (myself included) are enrolled in the course and will be writing a variety of stories, on a wide range of subjects, about Northfield and the Rice County Area. The students submit one to two stories per week on their own individual blogs, visible only to other class members, and Professor McGill selects a few articles each week for publication to Pressville. Both Northfield.org and LocallyGrown have added a column for news stories from the Pressville site.

McGill, who has reported for a variety of prominent publications, including the New York Times, currently teaches at Carleton and runs his own online news site, The McGill Report, whose tagline is “media for global citizens.” 

Professor McGill and I spoke in class and later corresponded via email regarding his thoughts about the creation of Pressville. For McGill, Pressville and similar ventures “represent a counter-trend to what’s happening in most local and regional journalism today. With newspapers closing left and right, and with so many communities being left without journalism, here we have 22 people in a ‘classroom as newsroom’ that is covering Northfield and Rice County!...To me the class and the Pressville website represent a small but very real concrete step and positive model at a time when the overall journalism picture is looking bleak.”

Northfield.org board of directors member Rob Hardy, who currently teaches at Carleton in the Classics Department, also wrote via email about his reaction to this merger with Pressville.org. Hardy wrote “I think it’s valuable to have the voices and perspectives of local college students represented on Northfield.org....When college students become interested and involved in local issues, and when local citizens have the opportunity to see Northfield from a college student’s perspective, the ‘fabric of community’ is enriched.” Hardy wrote that he believes this kind of collaboration is exactly the kind of online community-building activity that Northfield.org’s mission statement supports.

Two members of the class, both Carleton freshmen, gave me their impressions of Pressville. Debbie Wong, who has had two articles selected for publication on the site, wrote “I think it's really cool that we're getting the chance to be part of something like this for a college class. We're always being told that our education is preparing us for the future, to contribute to society. Now we are!” Brandi Branham, also a freshman, told me that she’s excited about the addition of Pressville to local news sites. Branham says she feels “like there’s more purpose for writing our articles now that we know the whole community has access to them. We're not just writing them for a class, but for a community of people.”

Maia Rodriguez is a senior at Carleton College.  She will be writing regular features for Northfield.org during the fall term.