John A. Hatcher

For the inaugural issue of Community Journalism, the publisher invited two distinguished community journalism scholars – John A. Hatcher and Bill Reader – to reflect on community journalism as a concept and important avenues of research that conceptualization should encourage. This essay is the product of their efforts.

A challenge for media in a culturally complex world is building a sense of community between groups with strong cultural cleavages. In South Africa, a fledgling democratic republic is making concerted efforts to foster media that will help to overcome a history of oppression based on difference. A qualitative analysis of interviews with 62 respondents found that the community journalists see themselves as community educators whose role transcends reporting the news. The community journalists interviewed are experimenting with new partnerships and new ways of reporting the news. However, the respondents disagree on the way news should be reported, with some opting for a more solution-oriented approach. The findings underscore that the greatest obstacle to these efforts is finding a way to foster sustainable media that serve historically marginalized communities.