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How you can get involved with the online journalism community today

Chances are that if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you probably have a Twitter account and your own blog, which are already great first steps at being involved in the growing online community of awesome journalists.  If you want to take it a step further, there are tons of opportunities just waiting for you to snatch them up.

Take part in the Carnival of Journalism

What it is: The Carnival of Journalism is an online symposium of forward-thinking journalists who share their ideas around a common topic every month. The Carnival was recently reinstated by Spot.us’s David Cohn and will continue as long as there’s a community to continue supporting it.

How to get involved: This is a monthly commitment to sharing your ideas on the topic assigned by that month’s host. January’s topic was about how to make universities hubs of information in communities, and February’s topic was about how to increase the number of news sources. Join the Google group and keep an eye on carnivalofjournalism.com to get news of the month’s topic. Then blog away to your heart’s desire before the deadline and share your post with others in the group.

Why you should do it: Taking part in the Carnival of journalism is a good mental practice. There are few guidelines for the topics and you have to really force yourself to assess the industry and think outside the box about your answer. It’s a good way to keep your writing polished, keep fresh posts on your personal blog, and challenging your personal argumentative abilities through writing.

Join or host #wjchat

What it is: Web Journalism Chat is a weekly chat around topics facing the online journalism world. Topics range from digital news design, to community engagement, to radical newsroom culture reinvention. Each week is a different topic and there’s always lots to learn.

How to get involved: Wednesdays at 5pm PST (8pm EST), get on Twitter and search for the hashtag #wjchat. Respond to the questions, submit your own questions, and walk away from the two hours knowing something new. If you think you’d be a good host for the chat, get in touch with Robert Hernandez.

Why you should do it: It’s a free way to tap into the collective minds of all the bright web journalists on Twitter. It’s not often that there are so many people in the industry on Twitter at the same time watching the same hashtag. Use it to your advantage.

Create or participate in ONA meetups in your city

What it is: The Online News Association is an organization dedicated to journalism innovation online.  If you’re looking for real-life, face-to-face interaction, Online News Association meetups are an awesome thing to have in your city.

How to get involved: If your city already has a meetup group (see the full ONA meetup list for a point of reference), join the group and show up! Simple as that.  No city is too small for an ONA meetup group. If you’re interested in creating a meetup group, email ONA’s community engagement coordinator Jeanne Brooks and get started. It will require a monthly or bi-monthly commitment to finding a venue, sponsors, and getting the word out.

Why you should do it: Unlike the big ONA meetup that takes place once a year and draws thousands from around the world, regional ONA meetups are a way to build local connections, brainstorm on local projects, and keep the creative juices flowing.

Create or participate in a Hacks/Hackers event

What it is: Somewhat similar to ONA is the Hacks/Hackers meetup groups that are joining forces across the U.S. and abroad.  Hacks/Hackers is more focused on programming and uniting the Hacks and Hackers, rather than online journalism in general.

How to get involved: Check if a city near you is on the chapters list. If not and  you want to start a chapter, email burt@hackshackers.com. The monthly commitment requires coming up with a topic, finding speakers, snatching a venue and getting the word out.

Why you should do it: Hacks/Hackers is a great  hands-on way to learn new skills from people in your community and build lasting partnerships for future collaborations

Fund a story using Spot.us

(Disclosure: I was part of the redesign team for the latest spot.us launch).

What it is: Spot.us is a community-funded journalism site, meaning you give money to the stories you want to see reported.

How to get involved: To get involved, go to Spot.us and find a story that you think is worthy of being reported upon. Either donate a few bucks, donate your talent (reporting, photography, resources) or take a sponsor survey and donate credits for free.

Why you should do it: If you care about supporting independent, investigative journalism for a relatively low cost, Spot.us is the easiest way to show that.

Participate in a Poynter live chat

What it is: Poynter Institute of Journalism hosts live, open chats on its website with media professionals, educators, innovators — you name it. Each week, there’s a chat about managing your career. There are biweekly chats about writing and breaking chats about hot topics.  Topics vary from areas like Government hiring its own reporters to using Twitter as a correction tool.

How to get involved: Visit Poynter’s website and follow them on Twitter to stay up to date on upcoming chats. You can send yourself reminders using the CoverItLive widget embedded on each chat preview. Then hop in, answer the survey questions and interact with the chat host with your own input and questions.

Why you should do it: It’s  a great chance to get your questions out in the open and learn from the pros.

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