Linda Williams is the most recent journalist to join the DeWitt Wallace faculty, and she is set on fulfilling the need for well-trained local government reporters.
Williams is the former front page editor of The News & Observer, and she drew from her professional experience when creating the class “Writing the City Beat: Durham.” In her class, students report on the daily developments of Durham’s government. Students attend a variety of Durham planning commissioners’ meetings, Durham county commissioners’ meetings, and Durham school board meetings, all with the intent of reporting on breaking developments.
Her students have reported on stories such as Durham’s increasing homicide rate, the decision to raise the salaries of Durham police officers and firefighters, and the redistricting of Durham public schools. These stories, and others, are available at the class’ WordPress site.
To Williams, it was important that the students have a way to publish their work. “The blog that we have, the posts that we have, is a permanent archive of their stories. They can share [the website] with their parents, their peers, other professors, future employers, anyone…that might be interested in what they’re doing–they can share it.”
And, to Williams, what they’re doing is fulfilling a critical need with the journalism industry.
“A lot of communities…have practically no real coverage of local government…[and] local governments can really have the ability to influence the development of a city, negative or positive, and a lot of our money funds the local government. There’s a need for really trained journalists to tackle local government.”