Cleveland Documenters Civic Reporter Application

Neighborhood Connections is seeking a dogged Civic Reporter to do accountability reporting on local government as part of our Cleveland Documenters team. Accountability journalism includes investigative reporting, fact-checking and digging into public data. 

Consider applying if:

  • You want to be a “civic translator” who produces local news and information that promotes civic engagement and makes accountability accessible to everyday people;
  • You have a passion for digging into and researching public documents and getting answers to some of the most pressing questions facing local communities;
  • You are not satisfied with the status quo in Cleveland and are ready to do something about it.
  • You like to ask tough questions and are not easily intimidated by those with powerful positions. You are excited by the idea of producing “A Guide to Cleveland City Council: How does City Council work?” and doing the kind of tenacious reporting that makes a difference in the lives of Cleveland residents.

Cleveland Documenters trains and pays residents to document dozens of local government meetings each month via notes, live-tweeting and other digital formats. City Bureau’s Documenters.org collects and displays this documentation along with minutes, agendas, transcripts and other official records from local government agencies. The app also shows the times, dates and locations of public meetings in Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Cleveland Documenters’ Civic Reporter will:

  • Review and edit Cleveland Documenters content;
  • Curate information from the document database;
  • Create multimedia explainers about how local government works so people can understand what they can do to leverage power in public meetings; 
  • Report on issues related to local government and editorial content published via Documenters.org and its partner organizations. 
  • Work to translate what government decisions mean for individual residents by engaging in ongoing dialog with residents and including public comment in stories

The Civic Reporter will work with Neighborhood Connections staff and the Cleveland Documenters Field Coordinator. Staff and reporter will build and maintain relationships with local media so that reporting reaches a broad audience. The reporter will have the opportunity to be mentored by veteran journalists. 

Specific responsibilities will include:

  • Original reporting on local government with focus on accountability journalism, which includes investigative reporting, fact-checking and digging into public data. 
  • Requesting public records, and then analyzing and translating those official governmental records to make them relevant to everyday people
  • Curation of documentation and Documenters content
  • Creation of social media content based on original reporting and Documenters.org content
  • Regular communication with Documenters staff and partner organizations

Requirements

Applicants must:

  • Have experience creating journalistic content, preferably text-based and/or audio or video
  • Be determined, persistent, organized, precise, and detail-oriented
  • Be a fast and clear communicator
  • Enjoy challenges and learn quickly
  • Have excellent time-management skills

We also expect applicants to have several but not all of the following:

  • Experience or a strong interest in Cleveland’s local government
  • Experience working in a newsroom 
  • Sharp research and curatorial skills
  • A comprehensive understanding of Cleveland’s civic ecosystem
  • Relationships and experience in Cleveland’s neighborhoods 
  • Daily news-consumption habits
  • A strong desire to do local news differently

Schedule

This is a full-time contract position starting in January of 2021 and ending on December 31, 2021. The Civic Reporter will work an average of 40 hours per week. Hours for this position can be worked remotely. 

Timeline

Applications for the Cleveland Documenters Civic Reporter will close at noon (ET) on Monday, December 7, 2020. Selected applicants will be interviewed via phone by Cleveland Documenters team, and finalists will participate in an online interview the week of January 4, 2021 with the goal to choose a final candidate by January 11, 2021.

Meet the Cleveland Documenters Team

We’re excited to begin Cleveland Documenters in partnership with Chicago-based civic journalism lab City Bureau and with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the Visible Voice Charitable Fund of the Cleveland Foundation. Cleveland Documenters recruits, trains and pays Greater Clevelanders to document official committee meetings of the Cuyahoga County and City of Cleveland governments and contribute to a communal pool of public knowledge. Read more about it here.

Lawrence Caswell, field coordinator

Lawrence has been following Documenters since its launch in Chicago and brings a wealth of knowledge about not only how Documenters works, but also about Cleveland, journalism and technology. He has experience podcasting, doing voiceovers, DJing and even comic book writing. Join one of our online Cleveland Documenters gatherings to hear his #CLEDocumenters Spotify playlist. 

Rachel Dissell, accountability journalist

Rachel brings her skill doing accountability reporting to Cleveland Documenters. She will: be part of the team that edits Cleveland Documenters documents; support special projects with Cleveland Documenters; and act as mentor for emerging reporters. 

Gwen Garth, artist and community builder

Gwen has long practiced the act of following her vote as a member of a public arts board as well as a precinct committee woman. With Cleveland Documenters, she will work with Lawrence to facilitate a regular gathering space for Cleveland Documenters to connect and support each other. 

Mary Ellen Huesken, document copyeditor

Mary Ellen will be the last member of our team to review Cleveland Documenters’ notes for clarity and accuracy before documents are published to Documenters.org. She is a former copy editor at The Plain Dealer. 

Lila Mills, Neighborhood Connections

Lila is the communications manager with Neighborhood Connections, the home of Cleveland Documenters. Lila is focused on the overall goals of Cleveland Documenters, and will be focusing on partnerships with local people and organizations, handling Documenters payments once documents are published, and working as part of the editing team. 

What happens when I submit my document?


1. SUBMISSION: Lawrence is the first contact for all Documenters. When you submit your documentation, you will receive an automated email from Lawrence letting you know your document has been received. 

2. REVIEW: Lawrence, Rachel or Lila will edit the document. If we have questions, we will give those to Lawrence who will reach out to you for more information. 

3. COPYEDIT: Once the initial edit is complete and any questions have been answered, Mary Ellen will copy edit the document. Once Mary Ellen has finished, she will let Lawrence know. 

4. PUBLIC: Lawrence will publish the document on Documenters.org. (We expect to be able to complete this process within 24-48 hours of notes being submitted.) 

6. FEEDBACK: A member of the Cleveland Documenters team can support and/or give constructive feedback to Documenters during a breakout at our weekly office hours.  

  • Also note: Tweet threads are embedded on Documenters.org, too.

Find out more about Cleveland Documenters.