In Macon, the working group at The Telegraph and macon.com — with newsroom, library and classroom participants — is considering ideas at the intersection of community, fact-checking, news, transparency and engagement in middle Georgia. To what extent does the credibility of a news report or newsroom depend upon these emerging best practices?
The working group is developing a major project for the fall that will include a Report for America journalist, whose mandate includes community service along with unearthing under-covered news The RFA journalist will join the Telegraph/macon.com and its collaborative newsroom partners over the summer.
Meet the working group:
Debbie R. Blankenship: Debbie is interim director of the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer Univerity, a partnership that includes Mercer’s journalism program, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting. Debbie teaches reporting classes and writes periodically for area publications. She is also the faculty adviser for Mercer’s student newspaper, The Cluster.
Debbie received her graduate degree in Mass Communications from the University of Georgia, and went on to work in reporting positions for publications in South Carolina and Georgia. Her last full-time reporting job was with The Telegraph.. She joined the CCJ in 2013 as a journalist in residence and newsroom coordinator. She coordinated and produced stories for the Center’s first community engagement project, “Macon in the Mirror.” The project won numerous awards including first place in the state press awards Community Service category and second place for Best Online News Project.
Grant Blankenship: Grant is a multi-platform reporter with Georgia Public Broadcasting. His radio work has appeared on shows like NPR’s All Things Considered and APM’s Marketplace. Before that he was as a photojournalist with The Telegraph, and his photographs have been published by news organizations such as The New York Times and Pro Publica. He works with college journalism students as a partner with Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism. (Grant and Debbie are married.)
Laura Corley: Laura Corley is an award-winning journalist who breaks news for The Telegraph. Her most recent beat is public safety. Laura has a passion for digital storytelling; her work for The Telegraph includes annual interactive homicide timelines detailing killings in Bibb County. The Forsyth, Ga. native is an advocate for government transparency. Another of her recent data journalism projects includeds searchable databases of the government salaries paid in Middle Georgia. She’s a graduate of Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.
Sonya Green: Sonya joined the Center for Collaborative Journalism in 2017 as Engagement Reporter. She works as a liaison between students journalists and journalists at The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting. Before that, Sonya was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. Her project looked at the way language in news stories as well as attitudes and approaches in journalism narratives can perpetuate stereotypes about race, class, and identity. Earlier, Sonya served as the interim Assistant General Manager at 91.3 KBCS radio station in Bellevue/Seattle, WA. She had worked at the station for eight years as a talk show host, managing producer and news director, leading the station’s work in the Association of Independents in Radio project, Localore: Finding America. A series produced for the project earned the Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, a national award given by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Sonya is the board president for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
Sherrie Marshall: Sherrie Marshall has been Vice President and Executive Editor of The Telegraph and macon.com since February 2001. Before joining the Telegraph, Sherrie spent nearly 23 years in various editing positions at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Sherrie was on the team that launched the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University. The center, though its partners, offers students hands-on journalism experience throughout their college years, and has as one of its missions to produce annual community engagement projects. Among the projects Sherrie has overseen, edited or helped shape are the award-winning Macon in the Mirror, Blight, Pedestrian Fatalities and DisIntegration: The re-segreation of Macon-Bibb public schools. Feedback from public forurms is what initiated the project on commercial and residential blight in our home county.
Sherrie received a B.A. in English from Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2011, she received the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership, sponsored by the Associated Press Media Editors.
Lauren Mullins: Lauren is the Head of Reference at Washington Memorial Library in Macon, Georgia. Lauren received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Georgia in 2007 and a Master of Library and Information Science Degree from Valdosta State University in 2015. She has worked in libraries in the Middle Georgia area in positions of progressive responsibility since 2011.
Lauren works daily to connect people with the information necessary to improve their lives through excellent services and materials. She creates adult programming for the library and instructs library patrons in relevant computer skills, including basic skills, resume building, Microsoft Office Suite, and more.