According to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), the decline in local news across the country paints “a truly bleak” picture. CJR cites fewer newspaper newsroom employees since 2004 as a major factor in the decrease in local news coverage. The consequence of having fewer reporters — and less local news coverage — can be devastating. Academic studies, according to CJR, show that the local news collapse has likely led to lower voter turnout and bond ratings, and more corruption, waste, air pollution and corporate crime.

Enter Civic Documenters.

Inspired by the success of the City Bureau’s Documenters program and the work of Dr. Richard Watts at the University of Vermont, CivDoc is helping newsrooms by training a corps of community members to document government meetings and assist local journalists with their reporting. CivDoc is a joint project of the Granite State News Collaborative, Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Through an intensive five-week training program, CivDoc will demystify local government, explain open meeting and public record laws, and teach the skills needed to document local government to a select group of New Hampshire residents. After the training program and with these skills in place, our group of volunteer Civic Documenters will then work on a longer-term basis with newsrooms to gather information helpful to local news coverage. The program will help individuals better engage with their government while also providing much needed support to CivDoc’s participating newsrooms.

The next CivDoc cohort will be exclusive to residents in and around Laconia, Boscawen, Franklin, Tilton, Bristol and Gilford. This program is offered in partnership with editors from The Laconia Daily Sun and with funding from Franklin Savings Bank. 

Interested in becoming a Civic Documenter?

Participants in this pilot program will need to commit to a series of classes, workshops and assignments during a five-week period beginning in September. Once the training is completed, participants will then meet regularly with local editors to discuss documenting needs. Before applying, please review our tentative training schedule to confirm your availability:

Once you have confirmed your availability for all classes and workshops, please complete the following application which must be submitted on or before March 1, 2024:

Please email any questions to Granite State News Collaborative Director Melanie Plenda at melanie.plenda@collaborativenh.org.