A lot of local stories go untold when local newsrooms hire fewer journalists, as has been the trend for many years now. Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication is making an attempt to turn that tide with its new online news publication, Capital Current.
“We’re putting less emphasis on breaking news, and more on less time-sensitive issues, things we hope will be interesting for people to read tomorrow and in the months ahead,” says lead instructor Aneurin Bosley, who helped launch the new website at the start of the current academic year. Over the past several months, those issues have included the local repercussions of legalized cannabis and the fact that many Ottawa residents were ineligible to vote in October’s municipal election.
Staffed by a class of fourth-year journalism students and supervised by instructors and master’s students, Capital Current uses video, infographics, enhanced maps, slideshows, surveys, and charts to tell local stories in compelling ways. While they do cover current news topics, writers also seek out and develop less time-sensitive stories that might not get an airing in the traditional news media, such as the barriers raised by Ottawa’s Housing First strategy for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.
“We envision Capital Current as an important part of the news ecosystem in the Ottawa area. We have a lot of very talented, young, up-and-coming journalists, so we have a pretty good-sized newsroom. They’re creative people who are able to tell stories that perhaps other people are not,” says Bosley.
Louisa Simmons, one of the students writing for Capital Current this semester, appreciates the real-world experience the site provides her and her peers.
“I like that it doesn’t just mimic a real newsroom—it is a real newsroom that has a continuous news cycle; your work ends up getting published and read by the community,” she says. She and her fellow writers are also learning to use digital storytelling tools that will serve them well when they hit the job market next summer.
Student reporters for the new @CapitalCurrent take a break after finishing a successful term. Congratulations for rising to the challenge of getting a new publication off the ground! pic.twitter.com/jgMPKeGPVk
— Carleton J-School (@JSchool_CU) December 4, 2018
“Our focus is on a broader use of digital technology that can enhance storytelling. We put a major emphasis on visuals, photos, videos, etc. We also are a bit more data-oriented. A lot of stories involve some aspect of data these days,” Bosley says.
There’s a lot of great storytelling happening here, and unlike past Carleton publications, the focus is broader than just Centretown.
But it’s not all fancy maps and infographics. There’s a lot of great storytelling happening here, and unlike past Carleton publications, the focus is broader than just Centretown. Five times each semester, instructors convene a panel of people representing various local communities to speak to the students and answer their questions.
“We’ve had people such as women at risk of homelessness; immigrants and refugees; and people involved with amateur sport and disabled sport, so the students through these panels are exposed to a wider picture, a fuller picture of some of the communities in Ottawa than they might ordinarily be,” Bosley says.
That exposure brings about more diverse stories that aren’t being told anywhere else, like the walking tour of Hintonburg that highlights food waste in the city, or a call by Ottawa’s deaf community for the federal government to recognize sign languages as official languages. Each of those stories includes charts and graphs or infographics to help illuminate and delve deeper into the issues at hand.
“What Capital Current taught me is that you can actually elevate any print story with multimedia elements and it doesn’t take away from the power of the text; it just emphasizes it. Words are always going to be important,” says Simmons.
Capital Current recently launched a weekly newsletter to help readers stay on top of the new stories being posted daily. Visit https://capitalcurrent.ca and scroll to the bottom of the home page to subscribe.