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Q&A: Meet your Journalism Open judges

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The Journalism Open 2013 submissions are in. Editor Jared Goyette and I have started sorting, and soon we’ll pass the finalists’ submissions off to our panel of local guest judges. Choosing our winners will undoubtedly be a difficult task for them, but luckily for The Sac Press, our top entries are in good hands. 

Don’t forget to get your ticket to our Journalism Open 2013 Awards Ceremony here. The event will be held at Chops Steakhouse, where we will announce the winners as well as hold a raffle giving away giftcards to some of your favorite local restaurants.

Now, onto the judges: 

Carina Lampkin is the owner and head chef at Blackbird Kitchen and Bar, housed in what was formerly two historic buildings off of K Street. Lampkin moved to Sacramento after attending culinary school and cooking in San Francisco for almost a decade. At Blackbird, Lampkin hopes to offer “gourmet food at hipster prices” while doing her part in the development of K Street, or as some now call it, The Kay.

via Downtown Partnership VIBE nominees
SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
CL: Citizen Journalism is essentially when an individual in society brings news to others attention through the usage of written mediums. It’s value to the community can come from promotion of business, spreading the word on new ideas, and bringing a community together.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
CL: What makes a good news story a great news story is factual drama, resolve and resolution.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
CL: To get more involved with the community as a whole.

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
CL: The improper use of an apostrophe.

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
CL: Some real, hard truth.

Jeff Knorr is a well-published poet, writer and essayist, as well as the current poet laureate for the city and county of Sacramento. He was the 2008 winner of the Ray Bradbury Award in poetry and also served as founding co-editor of Clackamas Literary Review. Knorr is currently an English professor at Sacramento City College.

 SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
JK: Citizen journalism is journalism based in the interest, research and perception of an engaged citizenry. I love the idea that citizen journalism is dynamic with opinion and thought that we don’t seem to get in traditional “objective” journalism from the big papers. Of course, the value to the community is that we get views that are diverse and vibrant and those views create lively discourse among readers.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
JK: I think a good news story is great when the human element is found. And, in this, I’m not just talking about some narrative—I like narrative and think that’s the start and what can carry a good news story—but I’m talking about the deeper human element that allows us to see how the story is really about all of us.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
JK: First, I like the idea of citizen journalism and being involved in a contest around that.
Second, as a writer, I believe that I need to be a literary citizen, so that means being
active in my community and the broader community of the region and state as someone
who is literary. So, when I was asked, this was something that seemed an interesting
project to be part of.

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
JK: My biggest writing pet peeve is a writer that is trying to be overly clever or tricky. I ascribe to Ray Carver’s old feeling of “No tricks!” And like him, I run for cover when I see tricks or someone trying to be clever—that’s trouble. I like a writer that’s honest and humble and genuine who will unbend in their work.

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
JK: I’ll be looking for stories that capture the flavor, interests, and significance of the city and region in a unique fresh way. And, of course, there’s just no substitute for good solid writing. I’m always just looking at the line work and how stylistically adept someone is at turning a phrase.

William Burg is the closest thing there is to a living, breathing Sacramento Encyclopedia. He’s a historian and author of numerous books on Sacramento history including K Street: Where Our City Was Born. He is a board member of the Midtown Neighborhood Association, President of Sacramento Old City Association and Vice-President of the Sacramento County Historical Society.

William Burg (left) with Sac Press Editor Jared Goyette

SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
WB: Citizen journalism is the modern form of the old tradition of debate in the public forum. Older traditions of public speaking in the city square were superseded by print media. When print media became centralized and subject to official control, citizen journalism continued via newsletters, handbills and underground newspapers, small community newspapers, samizdat media and zines. Online media broke the business model of printed newspapers and creates the opportunity for citizens to offer the same challenge to official sources. A citizen journalist also faces the challenge of the public forum because the public can react directly to the story, challenging not only the official story but the journalist’s analysis of the story. Instead of encouraging readers to passively accept news, they become part of the media.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
WB: A challenge to the reader. People like seeing their assumptions validated, not challenged, but that challenge is often necessary. A good journalist should never worry if their work will alienate people–if they never alienate the reader, they probably aren’t any good.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
WB:  Jared asked, and it sounded like fun.

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
WB: Trying to remain detached from the story. If you don’t care about the issue, why are you writing about it?

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
WB: Trouble.

Maya Wallace is a passionate community advocate and a board member of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center and the Sac State Hornets Policy and Politics Alumni Chapter. She has recently resurrected her blog, Post Cards from Sacramento, which celebrates life in the city of trees. If it’s after 5 p.m. you can find here everywhere that’s anywhere on the grid.

SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
MW: Citizen journalism occurs when residents make an effort to inform our community or provide perspective regarding issues that directly affect our friends, neighbors and colleagues. For me, this includes coverage of arts and culture, policy and politics, public safety, the foodshed – restaurants, farmers markets, urban farms and nutrition education, local economic issues, schools and parks, etc. Its value lies in the ability to power community engagement by fostering dialogue among residents, business owners, artists, politicians and others who care about Sacramento and helping them to develop their own informed opinions and perspectives on the issues of the day. It also provides a venue for perspectives that are not driven by a unified editorial vision or political machinations.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
MW: The most important thing is a point of view. Regardless of the facts on the ground, a great story provides a coherent narrative that enables fellow residents to understand the issues and can empower folks to take steps to support and improve our community.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
MW: I like Sacramento Press and I believe that expanding the pool of folks who can report on local issues is critical to its success. This city is full of intelligent, passionate people that make significant contributions to our quality of life and I’m eager to recognize those who’ve taken the time to contribute to our understanding of and appreciation for the city in which we live, work, and play.

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
MW: I am a stickler for proper punctuation and effective word choice. I also cringe at an overly conversational tone, especially for a news story.

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
MW: I prefer a straightforward, journalistic writing style that makes distinctions between facts and opinions. I want to see adherence to basic journalistic standards: a structured narrative and verified information with quoted sources rather than speculation or unsubstantiated rumors. A little sarcasm can be good, but too much snark is a turn-off for me. I believe that, as a city, we get more out of being positive than writing an angry screed (unless it’s really funny).

On the whole, however, I’m open to the possibilities. I am looking forward to seeing what people do with the form, and I’m hoping we discover the next Isaac Gonzalez. Or the print version of Huell Howser (may he rest in peace). 

Ed Fletcher is a reporter for The Sacramento Bee, where he covers local, county and state government. He used to be a board member of Access Sacramento, and is a current board member for the Sacramento Press Club. In his spare time, he makes films about zombies and dances Gangnam style on YouTube.  

SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
EF: While I don’t view citizen journalism as a replacement to the traditional journalism model, I think it can play vital role. Citizen journalism puts more eyes on the streets, at school board meetings and in the community. Even in the best of times, newspapers and broadcast outlets were unable to cover important community news events. It also opens an additional route in which one interested citizen journalist to bring a story into the mainstream that might otherwise have not been covered by mainstream outlets for whatever reason.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
EF: Great news stories shine a light on the human experience and like a good book can stand the test of time. They are both surprising and familiar at the same time. Great news stories move people to action and inspire.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
EF: Good work needs to be rewarded. Without the financial incentive, it’s extra important to recognize and celebrate the good news judgment and skilled news writing.

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
EF: Here are two peeves: Writers that chose the hard way to say something when the simple route would do and writers that needlessly put themselves in the story.

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
EF: I’ll be looking for stories that are clear, concise and logically organized. I value stories the respect the reader’s time. I’ll be on the hunt for stories that either tell something important or offer a glimpse into the modern human experience.
 

Isaac Gonzalez won the Journalism Open in 2011. Gonzalez is a lifelong Sacramento resident and owner of the blog RanSACked Media. He writes on local government, history, community leaders, business, crime, infrastructure, schools and neighborhoods. He’s also a prolific podcaster – you can listen to him on Forum, which focuses on neighborhoods, and Current, which dives deep into local politics.

SP: What is “citizen journalism,” in your own words, and what is its value to the community?
IG: Citizen journalism to me is people looking around where they live, work and play, and sharing the things that impact their lives. It can be something they love or something they wish was different. It’s people taking back the power of the media from the large institutions and focusing on a micro level on the things that we as a community should be paying more attention to.

SP: What makes a good news story great?
IG: When a news article not only informs the reader, but causes them to take action, to become a change agent, it becomes good. When it does this by just reporting the facts, and without preaching and beating the reader over the head with the morality stick, it becomes great.

SP: What made you want to get involved with the Journalism Open as a judge?
IG: As a prior Journalism Open winner, it seems only natural now to stop and recognize the work of others and encourage the writers of tomorrow to dip their toes into the water of Internet publication

SP: What are your “writing pet peeves”?
IG: If you use the word “I” and you are referring to yourself, you’ve just hit my biggest pet peeve. Take yourself out of the story as much as possible. You’re not the news, the story is. Also, extraordinary statements require sourcing and/or context. Don’t assume your readers are experts of the same subject matter you happen to be writing about.

SP: What will you be looking for from this year’s submissions?
IG: Quotes from people who have a different last name than the author. Pictures that the author took themselves or have permission to use. A good narrative, with a beginning, middle, and an end. And lastly, it has to be newsworthy! I’m glad your grandma makes the best oatmeal cookies, but that’s not news! Go outside and tell us about something right in front of our faces that we’ve never bothered to see before! 

We’ll be featuring more interviews with this year’s judges next week. Readers, feel free to chime in with your own answers to these questions in the comments section. 

Editor’s note: Join The Sacramento Press on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Chops Steakhouse to honor Journalism Open winners. Get tickets!

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