Vermonters have long been proud of our traditions of local democracy, but we are not exempt from the broader political crisis in America.
This is evident in our Town Council and School Board meetings, where the discourse has too often turned uncivil, and in the uncertain future of Town Meeting, which was already under strain, even before the disruptions of the past two years. At the same time, our local newspapers are disappearing or struggling to hang on.
Taken together, these changes have shaken a cornerstone of local democracy: our opportunities to learn more about our neighbors and hear what they have to say.
This challenge is daunting, but not insurmountable.
Underground workshop of VTDigger and UVM Community News Service share faith in a potential solution:
Student journalists can play a vital role in restoring our civic infrastructure, from the ground up, at the local level.
For the past several years, the Community News Service has deployed students to Vermont polling places on town meeting day to support local news coverage. This year, in collaboration with the Underground Workshop, they extend the invitation to all Vermont students, from grades 7 to 12.
The reporting assignment is simple: go to a polling place on the day of the town hall (Tuesday, March 1), record an interview and write a short vignette (essentially a brief profile of a voter). Instructions for the assignment are here, and students can find examples hereon CNS’s live blog from last year’s Town Meeting Day.
Students who participate act in an official capacity, as reporters for the Community News Service and VTDigger. A printable press card is here.
There is a firm deadline: file the story within an hour or two of the interview. In the past, many students have written their stickers in a car, in the town hall parking lot, on a phone, etc. It is also essential to submit clean and neat writing, and we encourage students to have an adult or peer proofread their work before submitting it.
Each participating student has three potential places of publication:
First, Community News Service editor Cory Dawson will post the vignettes to a live blog as they arrive.
Second, Cory will forward vignettes to local news outlets (if possible) to support their coverage of Town Meeting Day.
Finally, the Underground Workshop will release a collection of thumbnails on Sunday, March 6, giving VTDigger readers a collection of snapshots from voters across Vermont. We would like to present a diverse set of perspectives and encourage students to take risks, talk to people who might not share their political beliefs, or who come from different backgrounds, etc.
Click on here record.
And please help us spread the word about this opportunity!
*Student photographers and artists: The Underground Workshop would also like to publish your work.
Artists: Can you create a political cartoon addressing a specific issue in your city?
Photographers: Can you take a photo that captures an interesting moment on Town Meeting Day in your city? Or photos that relate to one of the most pressing issues in your city? Can you talk to the people you take pictures of and get their names?
If you are interested in any of these opportunities or have an idea of how you could contribute to our coverage of Town Meeting Day, please email Ben Heintz, Underground Workshop Editor , at [email protected]
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