STEPHENVILLE — Support for almost 400 small-town newspapers in Texas now comes from Tarleton State University, the new home of the Texas Center for Community Journalism formerly housed at TCU.
“We are excited to welcome the Texas Center for Community Journalism to Tarleton,” said Dr. Eric Morrow, dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. “The center will connect our students with journalism professionals throughout the state and open career opportunities for them.”
Created and funded by the Texas Newspaper Foundation, the TCCJ supports community journalism through free training on a variety of subjects vital to survival in an ever-changing business environment.
“The Texas Center for Community Journalism will bring recognition to the university as a statewide supporter of journalism in small towns and rural communities,” Gearhart said. “These organizations have played an important role in these communities for decades and are grossly underserved as compared to large metropolitan news outlets.
“Many of our journalism graduates go on to community news organizations, so the center will be there to continue to support them in their careers.”
The TCCJ opened in Fort Worth more than a decade ago and “really flourished at TCU under the direction of Tommy Thomason,” said Jones, a former editor of the Glen Rose Reporter and currently a journalism instructor at Tarleton. “Tommy was getting ready to retire and asked if we’d be interested in taking over.”
At least two other schools, the University of North Texas and Texas State University, expressed interest in hosting the center.
“Tarleton is excited about this,” said Malone, also a newspaper veteran and assistant professor of journalism. “It’s a great fit for our program because most of our students come from areas served by community newspapers and that’s where most of them start their careers.”
The first workshop to be offered on the Tarleton campus, in April, is expected to cover skills pertaining to writing and reporting. A summer session on financial aspects of the business is planned for Fredericksburg.
“The big dailies used to have state desks that would go out and cover stories all over Texas. They don’t do that anymore,” Malone said. “To the extent we can help community newspapers generate a variety of content that will keep people reading is good for the state and good for the conversations we have about which way things should go.”
Other anticipated workshop topics vary from photography and page design to website promotion.
“Community journalism is the one place where people trust local news, want local news and need local news,” Jones said. “Yet in small markets with a limited number of advertisers, nobody is getting rich doing it, so you have to have people who are passionate about it, who care about it.
“A free resource like this is good for the communities so they get the best local news coverage they can and don’t have to become news deserts.”