We Need More Stakeholders In Our News Conversation.

We’ve always been able to rely on certain organizations — mostly, traditional news outlets — to serve our communities with news, information and discussion. Should we be involving new stakeholders in this conversation?

story by Dan Oshinsky / photos by Sarah Elms
published July 25, 2012

Dr. Michael Stout speaks at the 'Letters to Springfield' panel on July 17, 2012.

I love libraries. Always have. I was one of those kids who signed up every year for my local library’s summer reading challenge. In high school, I was the student rep on the library board. Wherever I’ve gone, signing up for a library card has been near the top of my To Do list.

But there’s more to libraries than just books or CDs. Take the library system here in Springfield, Mo. They’ve got amazing meeting spaces at their locations, from small meeting rooms to big auditoriums. Groups from across this community often turn to the library first when they need space for an event. When they need a neutral site for a controversial meeting, they turn to the library. When they need a place to discuss what’s going on in their lives and in the larger Springfield community, they turn to the library.

And what’s more: The library is already one of the places people in this community turn to for information and ideas. But it doesn’t have to stop there.

The next step, I think, is turning the library into a hub for stories about Springfield — not just the world, or big ideas, or whatever else is on those bookshelves — and merging that with more regular discussions about this city.

What I’m seeing across the country is a loss of — and an overall decline in — the institutions that used to serve our communities. We’re losing staff at news organizations, especially, and these have always been the places we go for information and debate about what’s happening in our neighborhoods.

As we lose those traditional outlets, we need new stakeholders to step in and keep the discussion and flow of ideas going.

I think libraries can be an excellent stakeholder in this conversation, and that’s why I’m still so excited about last week’s “Letters to Springfield” town hall panel. I think it was a fantastic showcase for the library as a place for stories, ideas and discussion about Springfield. I hope our event will lead to future events there.

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I’m also thrilled that City Hall came on board to help us livestream the panel. They, too, want to be a part of the conversation happening in this community. They want to be a part of sharing the stories of this city. They’re a newsmaker in this town, but they can also be a major stakeholder in the larger conversation — assuming, of course, that they are fully transparent in the way they tell these stories.

We need more stakeholders like these in our communities, and I think it’s up to news organizations — from Stry.us on up to established newsrooms — to partner with these groups. All of us have resources to offer — stories, space, tools — and all of us want to be a part of building stronger communities.

Let’s start to work together. We cannot afford to let the conversation — and the stories — in our community die.