Investigative reporters like to talk about the impact their stories have had — corruption exposed, laws changed, the sort of things that win Pulitzer Prizes.
Community journalists like to talk about the impact their work has had, too. It’s just on a different scale.
Here’s one neat example from today: Thanks to two of our community news publications in Salem, Va., and Botetourt County, Va., we made a couple’s dream come true. We helped find them tractors for their wedding. More accurately, we connected them with readers who supplied those tractors.
Allow me to explain. In early September, April Harris contacted the newspaper with an odd, and urgent, request. She and her fiance, Jim Pruitt, has their heart set on a John Deere-themed wedding. He’s a big tractor fan, she embraced the concept but they were having a hard time finding someone to loan them some farm machinery as a backdrop for their wedding photos.
The couple was getting married in, and planned to live in, Salem — so we put an item on our Salem community news site (and then later published it in print.) We also did something we didn’t normally do, and that was to also publish it on our Botetourt County community news site (and followed it up in print there, as well.) There was no Botetourt connection, and normally we’re very strict about such things with our community news site. However, Botetourt is still pretty rural, and I suspected there might be some people there with big tractors, and big hearts, willing to help the couple.
I was right.
Turns out that multiple readers in both localities saw the item (it’s unclear whether they were responding to the print version or the online version) and responded. Come wedding day, the couple had not one, not two, not even three — but four John Deere tractors. Plus a riding lawn mower!
It’s no Watergate, but we just had made one couple’s dream come true, all thanks to our hyperlocal sites.