The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at Kansas State University are seeking proposals for papers that provide insight and guidance on general issues and/or everyday problems that confront community newspapers and their newsrooms, with particular reference to weekly general-interest publications with circulations under 10,000.

This competition is an extension of the Center’s former “Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium,” co-sponsored for 20 years by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) and its foundation. It aims to engage academicians and community newspaper journalists in productive “conversations about community journalism.”

Proposals will be peer-reviewed by faculty with expertise in community journalism.  Final selection of the papers to be written will be made by a panel of working and retired community journalists who will evaluate the proposals on the basis of their potential value to newsrooms.

Completed papers will undergo a final peer review prior to publication in an issue of ISWNE’s quarterly journal Grassroots Editor. The schedule has been set up to ensure publication of all accepted papers by January 2021.

Proposals from graduate students are especially encouraged, as are proposals with an international focus, or reflecting an international perspective on community papers’ newsrooms.

One paper will be selected for presentation at the 2020 ISWNE conference in Reno, NV.   ISWNE and its Foundation will provide the author with a complimentary conference registration  as well as a partial subsidy for travel. The paper’s author will be expected to make whatever arrangements are necessary to attend this conference, which will run from June 24-28, 2020.

A second paper will be selected and the author will be invited to write a brief (400-450 words) summary of it for the ISWNE Newsletter in addition to publication in Grassroots Editor.  The authors of both top papers will receive complimentary one-year memberships in ISWNE.

Focus: Papers should deal with topics relevant to the newsrooms of community weeklies, particularly those with small staffs and circulations under 10,000.  The papers should provide useful guidance on general issues and/or everyday problems that such newsrooms may face.

Examples could include legal, political, or ethical issues; alternative print/digital integration models; surveys to determine successful techniques for staff recruitment/retention, for boosting online presence or to elicit “best practices” for special editions.  Roundups of how states handle Sunshine Law violations or papers train young reporters to be alert for such violations would also be of interest. These, of course, are only some of the many areas on which research could focus. A case study of one or more community papers would be acceptable if it leads to conclusions or suggestions that are then expanded to have general applicability.

Note that ISWNE members have access to the organization's Hotline, where topics of current interest to weekly newsrooms are regularly discussed. Non-members may requewst temporary access by contacing Executive Director Chad Stebbins @ stebbins-c@mssu.edu. This is one way to focus proposals and the resulting papers on issues of concern to community weekly newsrooms. 

Most successful proposals will deal with applied research, although theoretical papers that provide the basis for further applied research are also acceptable, as are general research topics that establish a clear connection to newsroom issues.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Guidelines for Developing Proposals: Proposals should be limited to a maximum of two pages.  These proposals should explain clearly and concisely how the final papers will be of practical use to community weekly newsrooms. They should note any prior work on which they will build or which they will assess critically.           

Proposals will be evaluated on the relevance and importance of the topic and on its value to newsrooms. Other criteria include originality, clarity of the writing, appropriateness of the methodology to be used, the likelihood that valid conclusions will be reached and the choice of materials that will be used to document the paper’s conclusions/support its recommendations. 

Suggested Length for the Paper: 2,500 to 6,000 words. 

Logistics for submission: Proposals should be submitted electronically to Huck Boyd Center Director Gloria Freeland at gfreela@ksu.edu. The proposal itself should contain nothing that would identify the author. It must be accompanied by a separate title page containing full author contact information (name, e-address, mailing address, university and/or professional affiliation and phone number). These two items must be emailed by Oct. 9, 2019.

Other Dates:

  • Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by Nov. 15, 2019.
  • The author of the paper selected for presentation at the 2020 ISWNE conference will be notified by Apr. 1, 2020;  peer review comments will be provided as soon as possible.  This author is expected to attend the conference from June 24-28 in Reno, NV..
  • Any changes suggested by the second peer review will be sent to authors by July 1, 2020, for use in preparing the final version of their papers for publication.
  • Final versions of the papers should be sent electronically to ISWNE Executive Director  Chad Stebbins at stebbins-c@mssu.edu by Sept. 4, 2020.

ISWNE was founded in 1955 to promote high standards of editorial writing, facilitate the exchange of ideas and foster freedom of the press in all nations. It aims to help members of the weekly press improve their editorial writing and news reporting and to encourage strong, independent editorial voices.  Chad Stebbins has been ISWNE’s executive director since 1999.

The mission of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, established in 1990, is to serve and strengthen local newspapers, radio stations, online media and other outlets that play a key role in the survival and revitalization of small towns in the United States.  Gloria Freeland has been the Center’s director since 1998.

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