There’s a gold mine of potential for stronger local journalism in Salem, and Capital Community Media has hired Meghan Jonas to start digging.
For Jonas, it’s a dream gig that allows her to combine her experience in journalism, non-profit funding and community outreach.
As the organization’s first community news director, she’ll be leading their effort to create a program that trains citizens in journalism ethics and reporting to help improve the diversity of local reporting.
“It’s nice being back in journalism and feeling like I’m able to do that in a way that feels really healthy, and like it’s going to have longevity. Because we’re able to start this community news department and make it the way we want it to be,” she said.
CC: Media is funded by the city of Salem and Marion County, using fees from Comcast community channels. The organization provides live coverage of community events and production classes.
Jonas said she looks forward to working in journalism without worrying about selling subscriptions or getting clicks. Her main priority will be community impact, which has been her interest since her first communications internship.
She got started at a gold mine near her home town of Elko, Nevada. As an intern, she informed workers about their benefits, retirement plans and other employment information.
She also freelanced for the local newspaper, sending the editor stories about events at the mine.
“That was a super great learning experience. And being able to work with the local paper was really nice for me because I grew up reading the local paper, and it had such an impact on me,” Jonas said.
From there, she went to the University of Montana’s School of Journalism. For her capstone project, she reported on the Blackfeet Nation improving its telecommunications infrastructure using federal Covid relief funding.
Jonas said she enjoyed seeing people gain more control over their own community funding and management.
When she graduated in 2021, she pivoted to nonprofit management where she could more directly facilitate change.
She moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her work helped secure around $400,000 in grant funding to improve the Navajo Nation’s water access.
Wanting to get out of the big city, she started searching for jobs in the Pacific Northwest. That’s when she saw CC: Media’s posting.
She was drawn to its community focus and involvement that went beyond writing stories.
“That was something that was always hard for me, in journalism, was feeling like I was writing about groups that I was not a part of that I probably didn’t have a place writing about,” she said. “So knowing that there are community ties and we’re able to reach out to those people and make sure that they feel involved in the journalistic process was really important to me.”
Jonas’ long term goal for the department is to have a team of trained citizen journalists doing in-depth reporting on their own communities. She said she hopes to reach communities who aren’t typically represented in traditional media, including the LGBTQ+ community, BIPOC community and youth.
Right now, she’s setting up focus groups and trying to hear from as many people as she can.
“We can’t do community news without involving the community and seeing what they want and what they need from us,” she said. “Many people don’t have a seat at the table in traditional journalism, so trying to reach out to those people specifically, and making sure that they know that, ‘hey, we’re starting this department and we want you to be involved because we want you to be able to be a part of the journalistic process.’”
As a newcomer to Salem, Jonas said she hopes people will reach out and help her get to know the city from all angles. She can be reached at [email protected], or (503) 588-2288 ex. 7562
“I’m always available to talk about why journalism is important and why it matters that the community is involved with it,” she said.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.