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Pine Hills blog hosts community meeting Thursday, April 16

April 9, 2015

by Ariana Wilson and Vanessa Langdon

The Pine Hills blog will host a community meeting next Thursday in the hopes of better serving the neighborhood.  This is the third community meeting to be held by journalism students at The College of Saint Rose since the blog began six years ago. The meeting will take place at the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The meeting will feature brief presentations by three student journalists who wrote for the blog this semester about their experiences covering neighborhood news.  Light refreshments will be served thanks to local community businesses including Price Chopper and Bruegger’s Bagels.  The meeting will conclude with an open forum for community members to tell the student journalists what news they would like to see covered in future articles.

Journalism student Alex Horton dressed as blog mascot, Twiggy, in an effort to promote next Thursday’s April 16 meeting./Adriana Rosales

Journalism student Alex Horton dressed as blog mascot, Twiggy, in an effort to promote next Thursday’s April 16 meeting./Adriana Rosales

“I think the purpose of the meeting is really to provide a space for conversation about the interests and concerns about the citizens of the neighborhood and highlight a lot of the accomplishments the blog has made over the past four years,” said Hanna Teal, a Saint Rose graduate student.

One of the many items that will be stressed at the meeting is the importance of accuracy when reporting in the neighborhood.

At the college, students periodically administer an accuracy check by surveying story sources. The most recent survey was conducted in Fall 2014.  Sources were surveyed concerning stories published between November 2013 to September 2014.

Journalism II students mailed surveys to sources who had been interviewed for 20 different stories that were published on the blog. The blog recorded a 40 percent rate of return. The survey exercise reinforces the importance of accuracy in journalism.

“To me it just seems so fundamental. It’s the one thing we have in journalism that becomes sort of the standard of our credibility, ” said Jacqui Banaszynski, a journalism professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

She said that accuracy is what gives journalists the legitimacy to claim their professionalism.

Survey responses varied as the stories did. Information in a  story from 2013 about an abandoned property at 681 Park Ave. was accurate, according to source Diane Schuetze, a neighboring resident on Park Avenue, who was interviewed.

A 2014 profile of a Pine Hills nurse, was properly reported, according to Karen Campbell, the profile subject. She said she would speak again with a Pine Hills blog reporter.

While the student journalists strive for accuracy, there are sometimes errors. Two sources responded with corrections to stories.

The student reporters righted information in a story about Pine Hills barber Michael Duker published in 2013. Duker opened his barber shop at the same time he was teaching at the Austin Beauty School. The story was revised to reflect Duker’s feedback.

In a story about Families Together, a price for the cost of an event was corrected after the blog received a survey response from Tracie Killar, communications director for Families.

Additionally Killar responded suggesting The Pine Hills Blog write a story regarding support services and programs for families, seniors, and people with special needs.

“What separates journalists from other writers is journalists strive for balance and accuracy, what separates us is representation from all sides to the best of our ability,” said Lisa Robert Lewis, editor of the Troy Record.

In addition to covering neighborhood news, the students in the Newsroom class worked on promotional materials for next Thursday’s meeting on April 16.

The mascot for the Pine Hills blog, Twiggy, is featured on many of the promotional items, including the blog and has appeared around the community in an effort to raise awareness for the upcoming meeting.

Students took to the neighborhood to photograph Twiggy for the blog and a promotional video. The photos will be used to help brand the blog.

That branding was used in the creation of fliers, door hangers, and pens.  The door hangers were distributed to more than 200 residential homes throughout the neighborhood and 30-plus  fliers were posted in local businesses.  The pens will be used to fill out surveys at the meeting and then handed out to those in attendance.

A promotional video using the “Twilight Zone” theme was also developed to promote the blog and the upcoming meeting.

“I learn things from the blog, about businesses and people in the neighborhood. As a resident of the neighborhood I love it. It helps to foster the connection in the community,” said Leah Golby, councilwoman for the tenth ward.

Students are hosting the meeting to draw attention to the Pine Hills community and to provide better service to readers.  The meeting at 517 Western Ave. will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

“We are getting traffic,” said Alex Horton, a journalism student. “There are over 400 articles and it is obvious that people are reading them because they are commenting on them.”

Additional reporting by Paige DeSorbo, Alex Horton, and Jessica LePore

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