The Bristol Edition (TBE) is an experiment in community journalism, focusing specifically on Bristol, CT, using readers (citizens) trained as journalists to provide its content. A contention here is that citizens in a representative democracy need to have the tools to fulfill their responsibilities. Learning what makes journalists journalists is one way for citizens to take on their responsibilities in a representative democracy. Our readers are citizens and vice versa, and we are what makes TBE’s pages.
A hallmark, then, of our pages, TBE pages, will be (is, has to be) decency.
This gets tricky, especially in these days of social media, where anything goes, where people feel their inhibitions have been unleashed to say anything stretching and oftentimes breaking the bounds of civility and decency. Enough said. The question for TBE, consequently, comes to this: does instituting a policy of decency encourage censorship? A second question, related to the first, might be this: does instituting a policy of decency violate the First Amendment’s right of freedom of speech and of the press?
The simple straightforward answer to each of these is this: if a person has something to say, to report, to comment on, to analyze, to share, that something can be said in a decent manner, using well-chosen words and substantiating them with facts. Name calling, ill-founded speculation, unsubstantiated claims, they have no place in the TBE’s pages. TBE, because it is of us, aims to raise the level of our conversations to meet a standard where we can inform and talk to each other respectfully, thereby enriching our community through our own unique marketplace of ideas.
Another question: will this policy keep us from addressing difficult situations? Again, much of the nature of journalism has to do with identifying the unusual, the out-of-ordinary, so difficult situations will have to be addressed. More on this in a subsequent post.
Toward that end, the efforts of TBE will be supported by workshops presented at The Writing Room. If someone has something to say and is worried about getting it on paper (and online), that person can seek assistance. Workshops address a variety of subjects and writing styles, from writing basic news stories, longer stories, opinion, journalism ethics and legal concerns. Among these workshops will be opportunities for people to write about Bristol’s history, including personal experiences and memoir, as well as dabbling in fiction and poetry.
The goal of TBE is to create a community newspaper of the finest sort. At the same time, it is to build Bristol into a community of writers and thinkers.
A healthy skepticism
As TBE develops, it will incorporate several aspects, primarily news and commentary, but also information about “News in the 21st century,” including the role of the reader. There has never been a time when readers need to be more skeptical of what they read because there is so much of it and so much of it originates from sources that cannot be trusted. TBE hopes it can be a trusted source for its readers; at the same time, TBE expects that our readers will approach our pages and posts with a healthy skepticism.
More about our mission as this site develops.