Introducing Civic Documenters: Empowering Communities to Strengthen Local News Coverage

CONTACTS Melanie Plenda |

The decline in local news coverage has been a cause for concern across the country, with significant consequences for communities. According to a report by the Columbia Journalism Review, fewer newspaper newsroom employees since 2004 has contributed to this alarming trend, resulting in a lack of crucial information for citizens, and a decrease in voter turnout and government accountability.

In response to this pressing issue, the Granite State News Collaborative, Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, and the New England First Amendment Coalition announce the launch of Civic Documenters (CivDoc), a pilot project aimed at addressing the challenges facing local newsrooms.

The project is inspired by the success of the City Bureau’s Documenters program, and the work of Richard Watts at the University of Vermont. CivDoc will empower community members by training them to document government meetings and assist local journalists in their reporting efforts.

Through a comprehensive five-week training program, CivDoc aims to demystify local government, educate about open meeting and public record laws, and equip a select group of New Hampshire residents with the skills necessary to effectively document local government proceedings.

Following the training, Civic Documenters will collaborate with newsrooms on an ongoing basis to gather essential information for local news stories. The pilot program will initially be exclusive to residents of the Monadnock Region and will be undertaken in partnership with editors from The Keene Sentinel and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Learn more and apply here. Applications are due August 15.

“We know that communities that have strong local news resources and are civically engaged are better able to effect the changes they want to see in their communities,” said Melanie Plenda, executive director of the Granite State News Collaborative. “As leaders in our communities it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to help strengthen and support local news and the community connections local news fosters.”

“Lack of local information hinders communities,” said Laura Simoes, executive director of the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. “CivDoc fills an information gap while boosting collaboration and helping residents to take a more active role in their communities. By partnering with local news outlets, Participants grow their own civic engagement and strengthen journalism’s role in our democracy.”

“This is a special opportunity to not only help New Hampshire residents become more civic-minded, but to also support newsrooms in the Monadnock region. We hope CivDoc will be a model for other towns in New England and will give local journalism a much-needed assist,” explained Justin Silverman, executive director of NEFAC.

Individuals interested in becoming a Civic Documenter are invited to participate in the pilot program, commencing in September 2023. Participants will need to complete a series of classes, workshops, and assignments during the five-week training period. Upon completion of the training, Civic Documenters will engage in regular meetings with local news editors to receive assignments and contribute to local news stories.

To apply for the Civic Documenters program, please review the tentative training schedule to ensure your availability. The application and additional information can be found at: The deadline to apply is August 15. Questions can be sent to Melanie Plenda at melanie.plenda@

About the Granite State News Collaborative
The Granite State News Collaborative is a collective of more than 20 local media, education and community partners working together to produce and share news stories on the issues that most impact our state. The hope is that together we can provide more information to more communities across New Hampshire than we could individually. Learn more at

About Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications
The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and defending the First Amendment, and fostering excellence and integrity in journalism and communication. The School provides classes, workshops, and resources to empower individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to become more effective communicators and more engaged community members. Learn more at

About the New England First Amendment Coalition
The New England First Amendment Coalition is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. NEFAC provides many public services and training programs that help strengthen communities and newsrooms throughout the region. Learn more at

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund and Connecticut Public.