Are you a storyteller? Write for us and get paid for it

Published 10:54 am Friday, July 5, 2024

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Learn to tell the stories of our community – and get a front-row seat to it all Minnesota newspapers stand in a unique moment. A shortage of reporters and editors is causing hardships at some papers, important stories are going unreported, and some newspapers have been forced to close.

Other papers have forged solutions. Wanting to strengthen their coverage, they are turning to their readers to report the news. These new partnerships are producing incredible stories. Do you consider yourself a potential storyteller about our community?

If so, we want to visit with you. We want to learn about your interest in storytelling. We’d also like to see some samples of your writing. Then we will tell you about an enterprising online training program that can help you refine your writing skills so you can share stories about our community with other readers.

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The program is called Citizen Journalism U, or CJU for short. Now in its second year, CJU has already trained a good number of new journalists across Minnesota. And it has solid credentials. Its sponsors include this newspaper, the Minnesota NewsMedia Institute, the Minnesota Newspaper Association and the journalism program at Bethel University.

Interested? Read on.

The Austin Daily Herald is recruiting readers like yourself to join the second cohort of CJU students. The first cohort of 24 students, who were trained in 2022, had varied backgrounds: high school students, retirees and people in between from all walks of life. Their common interests: a deep curiosity of the world, a love for their communities, and a love for telling stories. Weekly two-hour training sessions are moderated by Scott Winter, Bethel’s journalism professor. He is accompanied by four Minnesota newspaper veterans who take students on a deep dive into reporting.

Over five weeks, students learn the difference between news and opinion, how to develop a “nose for news,” how to conduct an interview, how to organize and add color to a story, how local government meetings work – and about 1,000 other worthwhile things that go into writing a solid newspaper story. Students will be mentored by experienced journalists who provide individualized help with reporting assignments.

The next CJU course meets online from 4-6 p.m. over five consecutive Thursdays beginning Sept. 26. The course is free to students because costs are shared by host newspapers and the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s nonprofit, the Minnesota News Media Institute. Successful students are awarded a certificate from Bethel and the Minnesota News Media Institute. Might you or someone you know be interested in CJU – and writing for this newspaper? We’re specifically looking for readers who want to report on: • people with intriguing hobbies or interests, life-changing volunteer roles, stories of epic world adventures, and other experiences.

• public affairs issues such as matters being considered by our city council, school board and county board.

• local athletes and sports events, particularly high school sports.

• school trends and activities, both in the classroom and out.

• store openings and other major business changes on Main Street, in the industrial park, at local farms, and elsewhere nearby.

• the local arts and entertainment scene.

Interested? If so, contact us at so we can set up a time to visit. I’ll ask you to bring a sample or two of your writing. It doesn’t have to be anything official – it might be a report you wrote for school or for your job, or something similar. If selected for CJU, you’ll become part of this newspaper’s extended team of reporters, perhaps as a freelancer or maybe part time. Your efforts will strengthen this newspaper, inform the community, and help it retain and nourish its identity.