Grassroots Journalism and Community Media

In Grassroots Journalism and Community Media (JR330 / SI300), students work with local journalists and community partners to produce multimedia stories about gun violence, discuss the ethics of reporting on gun violence, and learn how journalists can work with communities to develop solutions to the issue of gun violence in Boston.


Course Information


Gino Canella

PARTNER ORGANIZATIONMassachusetts General Hospital Gun Violence Prevention Center

Maridena Rojas, Amy Kaplan, Norine Woods

Local journalism is in a state of crisis. Researchers have become increasingly concerned in recent years with the spread of "news deserts", defined as “communities, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level.” Some argue that the loss of local journalism is eroding trust in political and social institutions and leading to declines in civic participation. In this course, students examined how community organizers are reclaiming their local information ecosystems by filling gaps in coverage and reframing issues. Students worked with community groups in Boston to create multimedia stories about gun violence, and learned about other grassroots news initiatives in the U.S. The course focused on two key issues: (1) the ethics of collaborative journalism and (2) the political economy of local journalism.

Three people looking at a fourth, whose hand is raised thoughtfully while speaking

A Look Inside the Co-Creation Process

“Each class has allowed us to delve a little deeper into the foundations of journalism—and in doing so, allowed us to imagine a more human future of news.”

Sophia Pargas, student 


Typically, the first day of school is short, simple and sweet. Introduce names and majors, read the syllabus, get out early if you’re lucky. In Grassroots Journalism and Community Media, however, this was anything but the case. In the small conference room on the 4th floor of the Walker building, the air seemed heavy and tense. There was an overwhelming sense that this class carried more weight than others we may have taken at Emerson before, that we were sitting in a room where real, tangible change could begin. Seven students, one professor, and three community partners crowded the table, waiting for the void of silence to be filled. Once it was, it seemed to never return. 

Rather than introduce a fun fact or play a game of “two truths and a lie,” we went around the room and answered one question: why are you here? Some of us wanted to go into the workforce as more informed journalists. Some were impacted by a shooting close to our hometowns. Most were just sick of feeling helpless to the constant violence in our society, and wanted to learn how to make a difference through our work. 


In this class in particular, there is never a shortage of things to talk about. And this is exactly the problem we face. Each week, there is inevitably another tragedy stricken—whether locally or nationally—to reflect upon. 

In response, our class has critically examined mainstream coverage and worked to acknowledge the deep rooted practices that inherently harm the victims of gun violence, as well as perpetuate the issue as a whole. Day after day, we sit around the room and talk not just as journalists, but as human beings hurting for communities and wishing to be a part of the solution. We discuss ways to intersect these two identities: informed, responsible journalists and emotional, empathetic humans. For the first time in many of our academic careers, we have left class feeling like maybe there is change to be made, and maybe we can be the ones to make it. For once, it feels as if maybe we aren’t so helpless after all. 

This is a feeling that has lingered in the air during every class, fueling and propelling us to challenge the traditional practices of mainstream media. Whereas other classes have taught us to conform to the way things have always been, this one allows us to redefine what they should become.  

Our mindsets have undoubtedly evolved as the weeks have gone on. Each class has allowed us to delve a little deeper into the foundations of journalism—and in doing so, allowed us to imagine a more human future of news. 


As the class is inevitably coming to a close, this leads us to wonder: what happens next? How do we continue on a path of learning, growing, and evolving as more ethical journalists? 

Within the website People Powered News, we are creating a commitment to sharing this knowledge with peers, journalists, and survivors—thus ensuring that our mission does not end with us. 

“We really wanted to focus on how we can change the narrative of gun violence in media, both by creating stories that combat a lot of the negative stereotypes about the neighborhoods affected by gun violence, but also by practicing what we preach.”

Amy Kaplan, learning partner

Spring 2023 - Journalism Studio Participants

Studio Contact

Are you an Emerson student interested in enrolling in this course in the future? Please contact to learn more!

Spring 2023 - Journalism Partner