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Community service award entry Missouri Press Association 2012 In response to a series of crimes by and against young people

in Columbia in spring 2012, the community held an event called Silence The Violence, which was dedicated to finding solutions. The Columbia Missourian offered thoughtful coverage of the preparation for and day of the event. We also looked for ways to meaningfully offer the information we’d reported to the audience gathered at the event, and also to reflect the perspectives of the people who attended. We asked permission to set up a table at the event, to faciliate interaction with the participants. We had thoughtfully reported on the lives of the young people who had died, and also on the police department’s relationship to the affected communities and on the topic of gangs. We summarized or reprinted that coverage onto simple 8.5” by 11” handouts and took them with us to the event. Instead of assuming those gathered had seen our coverage, we brought something they could easily have access to. (Photos at left.) Then, we prepared two questions to ask participants. We printed those questions on 11” by 17” paper and brought along a bucket of markers. The questions were ones a reporter could have asked and then summarized in a story, but our goal was to highlight the community members’ voices without a journalistic filter. As people wrote their answers to the questions on the paper, we took their pictures with their responses, and then we taped the responses to the wall behind the table. Some of the “readers” of the content, then, were partipants of the event, who may or may not have ever seen the “coverage” on the Missourian’s digital platforms or in the print newspaper. We then published the photos on our Facebook page and on our website. On Facebook, readers were invited to tag themselves in the photos, thereby exposing their social networks to the Missourian’s coverage. One of our aims was to have a “social” mindset as we covered community tragedy, capturing and reflecting conversation around a difficult topic. — Joy Mayer, Ann Elise Taylor and Laura Kebede, Columbia Missourian community outreach team

At left: A screen grab of the Facebook album of participants’ responses to our question. Below: One response, from the sister of a young crime victim.