The Appalachian Independent

I have recently been invited into an internship working with a new government-funded startup independent newspaper entitled The Appalachian Independent.

This new media source in the local area is striving to be a community-based project, with high-reaching goals. It is powered by the community, and is aiming at producing a wholey separate view of local arts and events as well as environmental and wellness issues.

The first release has been made, and you can view it at The Appalachian Independent’s Homepage. The next release is set for Wednesday, September 24, so keep an eye out for some new articles and content.

The project was started in June of this year, and received one of 10 national “New Voices” grants awarded by J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism.

At the moment, the project is a periodical being released twice a month, or roughly every two weeks. The articles are written by members of the community with a local mindset.

So, what am I doing?
Glad you asked. I am a junior administrator for the server and software that is powering the site. Currently, the site is running the Joomla! framework, and is limited only to the articles that are being released during the edition cycles.

The future roadmap is being hammered out at this time, and this is where I come in. According to the Mission Statement, the purpose of the Appalachian Independent is:

  • The active involvement of citizens in the democratic process;
  • The richness that results from sharing diverse viewpoints and thought provoking analysis;
  • The empowerment of all voices in the dialogue of democracy;
  • Respectful conversations about things that matter; and,
  • Our rich and vibrant mountain heritage.

At this time, though, the interactive participation mechanisms are not quite ready for prime time. In the future, we would like to be able to make each article an interactive experience, allowing the viewing community to comment on the stories, and thereby allow a dialogue to occur between members of the community and the writers of the articles. Sort of mini letters to the editor.

Also in the future, we would like to have a forum system so that conversations independent of the main articles can occur, allowing community members to bring up concerns about our region.

A few other features that I would like to mention that are in the roadmap are a “Barter Board”, ride share listings, a cultural calendar and an open system of classified ads that are posted by community members.

I am hoping that this experience will be a boost to my future career, as well as providing a great service to the community. I’m really looking forward to start getting the technical things running on this venture, and be able to put ourselves out there to the world.