Neil Henry, UC-Berkeley’s journalism dean, tells in this Chron op-ed the remarkable story of Linjun Fan, a student from China who created and staffed a news Web site for the East Bay city of Albany for a two-year master’s degree project at Berkeley. Henry writes:
- Linjun threw herself into Albany zealously, attending nearly every city government, school board, and neighborhood meeting. She created viral buzz about her site by participating in Yahoo, Google, and other digital discussion groups focusing on town activities. She encouraged citizens to contribute news of their own, tips, features, personal essays and photographs.
- For nearly every story over the next two years, Linjun was first on the scene, using the most highly advanced digital tools to file her work to her site from all over town.
Most of the time she was the only reporter at any of the events she covered, a stark reality shared by most of her classmates in their own coverage of places as varied as El Cerrito, Emeryville, and West Oakland.
- Linjun’s audience on the Web grew so dramatically that when she returned to China for two months last summer to pursue a news internship, citizens flooded her site with messages wondering, Where’s Linjun? Where’s the news? When will Albany Today come back?
Building upon her experience with Albany Today (albanytoday.org), the school earned a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to replicate her site for other communities in the Bay Area increasingly neglected by the local media, Henry reports. By the way, Linjun received her master’s degree yesterday.