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Valuing Community Voice
When Peter Southworth initially asked me to join his Journalism class first block Monday morning, I had second thoughts on the timing. I can think of better times to be a guest speaker in a class as even the most creative of presentations can struggle to spark conversation among adolescents at 8:15 am. I was pleasantly surprised, however, as my conversation with the thirteen juniors and seniors in the class turned into a productive one centering around the role of journalism in providing a community with voice.

A piece of my job at Proctor has evolved into this blog over the past three years using this medium to communicate thoughts about education and the unique approach to learning we take at Proctor. Just as I help provide one voice to Proctor’s ‘messaging’, the Journalism class has long been an important piece of communicating student perspectives through student sponsored newspapers circulated within the community and through occasional Student Voices posts to Proctor’s website.

As we discussed the challenges of creating an interesting lead, engaging titles, and article topics that resonate with not the author, but readership, students began to see that their struggles writing articles for class were not so dissimilar than the ones associated with publishing this blog twice a week.

Through discussion of article topics, we explored the role of a journalist and his or her news outlet in the greater community. Obviously, the role of this blog is different than the aims of the journalism class, but both seek to inform readers of the goings on of a community.

While we live in somewhat of a ‘bubble’ at Proctor, we are acutely aware of the role we play as citizens in the greater Andover community. Proctor is just one piece of Andover, and while it is the largest employer in the town, this town is incredibly vibrant well beyond the property lines of Proctor’s campus. The Andover Beacon, a hyperlocal newspaper serving Andover, plays a critical role in bringing the community together and creating a sense of connectedness among its 2,371 residents. Run by Charlie Darling, the Beacon publishes more than 40 color-filled pages of content free of charge to every Andover resident each month and is the source of local information, politics, school and community news. It is truly a community project relying on volunteers for content and donations for support (in fact you can support the Beacon by clicking HERE).

For students enrolled in journalism, a visit to the Andover Beacon later this month will reinforce the importance of community voice, regardless of whether that voice originates from students working to publish their own newspaper twice each term, faculty and staff writing content for Proctor’s website, or volunteers generating a local newspaper. Embracing this role as community voice may be intimidating at times, but ultimately empower for students as they actively shape the community in which they live and learn.
Every community is comprised of individuals, each of whom has a unique perspective.
The role of a media outlet is to communicate those individual perspectives to the greater community, just as this blog seeks to do regarding Proctor's academic mission.
During the coming weeks, Journalism students will engage with The Andover Beacon and its director, Charlie Darling, to learn about the role the Beacon plays in the Andover community.
Darling, pictured here speaking to a Journalism class a few years ago, understands the key role his newspaper plays in providing voice to Andover residents.
Our hope is that Journalism students not only come to appreciate the role of writers in shaping the voice of a community, but to place equal value on their role providing a student voice to the Proctor community through articles and blog posts.