UNC, NCCU journalism programs launch community news project in Northeast Central Durham

the VOICEThe journalism programs at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central University have partnered with Durham civic and church leaders, volunteers and residents to launch the Northeast Central Durham Community VOICE, a community news publication serving Northeast Central Durham (NECD).

The first edition went online today (Sept. 24) at durhamvoice.org with neighborhood news, information, photos, videos and features provided by NCCU and UNC journalism students and local teens mentored by students and faculty.

Jock Lauterer, senior lecturer and director of the Carolina Community Media Project at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is leading the effort that began more than year ago as an idea from UNC Department of City and Regional Planning students looking for ways to revitalize the 300-block area known as "the bull's eye" to Durham police and community development officials for its high incidence of crime.

Lauterer believes that strong community media help strengthen communities by encouraging a vital civic life and a developing a positive sense of place. VOICE will be published bi-weekly online through November and will add a monthly 24-page tabloid print edition in February 2010. The Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student newspaper, is covering the costs of printing 2,000 copies monthly for the first year of publication. VOICE will be distributed at neighborhood schools, churches and businesses.

"We want to empower youth to create a single source for local news for the Northeast Central Durham community," Lauterer said. "And we hope the young people putting out the paper will develop the skills to use their voices effectively in civic discussions while expanding their education and career options."

VOICE recruited its youth staff primarily through a series of free, on-site photography lessons taught at NECD's Salvation Army Boys’ and Girls’ Club, Seesaw Studio and the Durham Inner-City Garden.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided early support with a $25,000 grant for computers, cameras and other equipment for the project. Lauterer is negotiating space for a newsroom in the new Golden Belt complex, and he is exploring partnership opportunities with the new Union Independent School in the NECD neighborhood.