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Looking Ahead: Rapidian staff discuss priorities for 2011

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From The Rapidian Staff

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A sticky wall of staff priorities and functions (the loooong version)

A sticky wall of staff priorities and functions (the loooong version) /George Wietor

On New Year’s eve Roberta King, superstar citizen journalist and our champion at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, published an inspirational call to action encouraging us all to "be The Rapidian” in 2011. As part of the team that puts The Rapidian together, I obviously love this sentiment - but it has me thinking about what "being The Rapidian" means and how it is reflected in our priorities.

To help me figure this out, I asked my fellow staff for the top three things they are looking forward to in the upcoming year. Here's what they said:

Diversity & Inclusion
Unsurprisingly, there was foremost an emphasis on encouraging new and more and diverse voices. As Roberta put it, “The Rapidian is a place for people who feel underrepresented and unheard to have a voice—all are welcome” she said. The Rapidian’s publisher Laurie Cirivello placed priority on providing training and distributing reporting equipment in more community locations to broaden participation in neighborhood reporting. Linda Gellasch, The Rapidian’s Administrative Director, was quick to remind us that importance of having not just a representation of diversity, but "depth across the board.”

Community Cultivation
Like Roberta, Holly Bechiri, The Rapidian’s newest team member (you will learn more about her next week), looks forward to growing the “dreams and ideas the community has for what we, as Rapidians, can be.” The real heart and soul of The Rapidian lies in its amazing community of volunteer reporters, photographers, editorial mentors, commenters, readers and supporters. We couldn’t have gotten this far if people didn’t feel as though they had a stake in its success. We look forward to building this community with more events, more trainings, and probably most importantly more social functions that will help us get to know each other all a little better. (My dream involves a taco bar!)

We are also exploring new ways to participate. Denise Cheng, our Citizen Journalism Coordinator, explained: “There are a lot of people who are enthusiastic about The Rapidian, and it takes all kinds [of content] to make it work."  We look forward to pursuing suggestions for ideas beyond written articles that are, as Denise explains it, "propelled by imagination.”

Of course, there has to be a way to pay for this whole thing. The Rapidian is currently made possible thanks to a generous grant from the John S. and James L Knight Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and the Slemons Foundation, but their three year commitment is almost up. We will be working to implement sustainability in, as Linda describes it, "a tasteful and credible way.“ A few months back, Laurie wrote an editorial about sustainability that elicited some very constructive commentary. It's definitely worth revisiting.

Well, there you have it. The top three things The Rapidian’s proud stewards are excited to tackle over the upcoming year.


Unsurprisingly, my own priorities are similar to the rest of the staff's, filtered through a tech lens in my role as the New Media Planner:

  1. Mobile development - There is much we could do to optimize it for smartphones, and more importantly for digital inclusion, "feature phones" with mobile internet access. 
  2. Built-in reporter tools - Things like an editorial calendar, an "assignment desk," and even more tools for collaboration are being considered to help make contributing content easier.  
  3. Geographical Spread- I am looking forward to neighborhood dispatches coming in from all over the city, and with greater regularity. What's going on in Westside Connection? or Roosevelt Park? I can't wait to find out! 


So now it's your turn.  I'll ask you the same question:

What are you excited about in this new year of The Rapidian?

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I like "Mobile Development", "Built in Reporter Tools" and especially "Geographical Spread".  I think you all are doing a fine job and I hope the Rapidian continues to grow and be a resource for many more people in the community.

 Thanks Stephen! We hope so too!