The Rapidian

Our place, your voices: Our democratic need for citizen journalists

The Rapidian’s model of citizen journalism means that all of us – not just those with money or influence – have a platform to share our stories and opinions with our community. We need all our voices if Grand Rapids is going to become the city we want it to be.

/Courtesy of The Rapidian

Celebrate our place, your voices at our Community Celebration Thursday, May 14

We want to celebrate our community by kicking of our fund drive at a special event on Thursday, May 15, 7-10 p.m. at Brewery Vivant.

Attendees have special advance access to all of our thank you gifts for donors, including gift cards from these local businesses supporting The Rapidian:


/Tom Wagner

Since I took over as the Executive Director of the Community Media Center (CMC) a year ago, I have been confronted time and time again by highly reported international and national news stories that involve challenges to freedom of speech and access to media. Threats of violence caused Sony to back away from distributing a satirical movie that a foreign dictator found offensive. In Ferguson, Missouri, police interfered with journalists reporting on protests responding to the use of force against a largely minority population- and just recently it happened again in Baltimore, Maryland.

These types of threats aren’t just national news though- they also occur right here in our own backyard. In February, the Community Media Center was sued by the owner of an apartment complex in an attempt to enjoin Wealthy Theatre from showing a locally produced film the owner felt might present his apartment complex in an unfavorable light. Thankfully, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Christopher P. Yates quickly and decisively denied the requested relief, citing the First Amendment. But these challenges to freedom of expression are real and relentless.

All of these events remind us why the CMC founded The Rapidian a little over five years ago. The Rapidian’s model of citizen journalism means that all of us – not just those with money or influence – have a platform to share our stories and opinions with our community.

As a part of the Community Media Center, an independent nonprofit, The Rapidian is free from pressure from advertisers or shareholders that might steer its content in one direction or another. It is available free of charge to anyone with internet access. It strives to make freedom of expression available to us all.

While The Rapidian is an incredible resource for keeping us all up to date on new local businesses and restaurants, events and music, its real potential reveals itself through stories where citizen journalists share their first-hand experience dealing with the many thorny issues that confront us as a city. Here are just a few examples:

Our understanding of the many complex issues facing our community would be lessened without the personal perspectives offered by these citizen journalists. Oftentimes these are stories we might prefer to ignore. They remind us that in spite of the millions of dollars spent on downtown development, residents with mobility impairments are still challenged on a daily basis That we are fighting a losing battle to address substance abuse if we treat it as solely a matter of law enforcement. That racial disparities in law enforcement still exist in Grand Rapids.

These stories, and many others like them, are the reason I provide financial support to The Rapidian during their fund drive. By giving firsthand perspectives on issues that confront our community, these voices on The Rapidian are critical to Grand Rapids becoming the city I want it to be.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.