Graduate students in interactive journalism in the Reynolds School of Journalism developed www.OurTahoe.org, to engage citizens in environmental dialogue about Lake Tahoe.
Their effort tied for first place in the student journalism category of the Online News Association competition, Oct. 19. The Online News Association praised OurTahoe.org "for making an effort to draw in the audience and giving them the tools to be part of the solution to a community problem."
"Our goal for the site and for our program is to develop new forms of journalism that inspire people to work together on the public problems facing their communities," said Donica Mensing, Reynolds School graduate program director. "Journalism is very good at publicizing problems and then moving on. Given the new technologies available to journalists today, what can we develop that will create a role for journalism in engaging citizens to take action on the many issues facing us today?"
OurTahoe.org uses multi-media tools that encourage users to understand each other's values. Tools such as virtual reality provide a sense of place and Web 2.0 technologies encourage participation among a variety of Tahoe citizens.
The site also includes experiments in game technology that nearly eliminates the need for shared verbal or written language, allowing users of different ages, languages, and experiences to engage with news subjects.
"What distinguishes the site is our mission," said Larry Dailey, professor and Donald W. Reynolds Chair for Media Technologies. "We were committed to taking a variety of approaches and incorporating diverse points of view to help the people get a grasp on the myriad environmental issues surrounding Lake Tahoe and to come together seeking solid solutions."
"The recognition is significant because it confirms that we are on the right path," Dailey added. "But we can't afford to deliver journalism the same way. We have to rethink content and process every year. Our challenge is to not to get locked into doing the same thing."
"Our unique master's program in interactive journalism is a 10-month professional program that challenges working journalists to invest new forms of journalism and empower communities and citizens," said Rosemary McCarthy, interim dean.
The Online News Association awards are administered by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications.