It's not a book club — it's a newspaper club! What a novel concept. Residents huddle to check out the first edition of their community newspaper. (Jock Lauterer photo)
It’s not a book club — it’s a newspaper club! What a novel concept. Residents huddle to check out the first edition of their community newspaper. (Jock Lauterer photo)

Jock Lauterer, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Carolina Community Media Project at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has returned to China for a third summer to teach Community Journalism at workshops from Beijing to Chongqing to Guangzhou.

 

At day’s end, when I am about spent, I am taken to the third start-up, where my faith is restored.

Launched just last week by the Chongqing Morning News, the Nan-an (South Bank) News serves an honest-to-gosh neighborhood that feels distinctly like “community” in the American sense of the word.

At a community center brimming with locals engaged in all manner of leisure and physical activity including dancing, aerobics, card games, Mahjong, calligraphy and painting…there was even one room full of neighborhood folks sitting around reading the new first edition of the Nan-an News and discussing its contents – sort of like a book club, except for their newspaper!

OK. Look, the skeptical journalist in me naturally suspected a set-up. But if this happy flurry of activity had been staged just for my benefit, how come the community centers at the two gated communities  I’d been taken too earlier today had been so totally devoid of residents – and eerily so?

Being a glass-half-full kind of guy (In Chinglish they call me “Mr. Half-Full Cup”), I’m going to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. This was authentic.

When the tour was over, the enthusiastic young staff of the new community newspaper huddled to seek advice, how better to do their job and serve their community.

You’d have to have had anti-freeze in your veins to not be moved by their sincerity. I left Nan-an cheered, with my faith restored and my hopes for the future of Chinese community journalism buoyed.

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