In September, when Carleton journalism students return to campus, they’ll continue reporting and publishing stories that matter to Ottawa residents, from breaking news and in-depth coverage of important issues to offbeat features and profiles of local personalities. But the outlet for these stories is evolving with the times.
The new digital-only Capital Current will merge the journalism program’s biweekly Centretown News print newspaper — the last edition will hit the streets in mid-April — and the multimedia student publication Capital News Online.
Capital Current (tagline: “Covering Ottawa Communities”) is part of a longstanding tradition of local outreach for both the university and Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication. And next fall, with roughly 100 third- and fourth-year students working on the publication at any given time, plus additional content gleaned from the best classroom assignments produced by their peers, journalists-in-training will be able to polish the digital storytelling skills they’ll need to work in the industry. At the same time, they will give people in Centretown and other Ottawa neighbourhoods the stories and information they may be missing as media companies pull out of the local market.
“This is an evolution in several different ways,” says Journalism Prof. Randy Boswell, the publisher of Centretown News and instructor of third-year, fourth-year and master’s students who will contribute to Capital Current. “It’s an evolution of the way we teach journalism, an evolution of the university’s relationship with the city’s communities, and it’s an evolution of journalism itself, which is very much a changing game.
“Digital tools and social media have enabled a richer and much more fluid conversation back and forth between the public and traditional gatekeepers of news. It’s an interesting moment that we can move forward into.”
Rather than spend time and energy producing a newspaper, which costs the school about $40,000 a year for printing and distribution, the focus will now be fully on creating a dynamic interactive online publication.
As a neighbourhood, Centretown will remain a priority: it’s downtown and that’s where a lot of news happens. But Capital Current will broaden its range, telling stories across Ottawa’s geographic communities, as well as its demographic communities, such as Indigenous, immigrant and LGBTTQ+ groups.