Thanks, PIN Camp, for giving me the spark I needed.

After a brief post-graduation blogging hiatus, I’m excited to post the stories I worked the entire semester on. You’ve all listened to me rant and rave and stress over writing for the past few months, so I’m sure it’s heartening to some of you that something actually came of all that.

Drumroll please…..

Story 1: ‘Balanced literacy’ approach wins reading wars in Columbia schools

Story 2: Reading wars pit literacy instruction methods against each other

I’m proud of this work, but (and there’s always a but) … I could’ve done more. Not more writing. Even five more inches would’ve probably killed me and my editors. Not more reporting. I did my due diligence and researched like crazy.

But more innovating. More outreach.

I just spent the last two days at PIN camp, learning the ins and outs and amazing stories surrounding the Public Insight Network, a tool for journalists to build source relationships and relationships with their communities overall.

I was excited about the conference from the get-go — just to do some traveling is always a plus for me. I really couldn’t have anticipated all the brilliant people I’d meet and chance I’d have to discuss some of the most innovative and exciting community outreach and engagement going on in this country.

It was a whirlwind few days spent learning about Code Switch, an NPR blog that explores issues of race and culture; East of 82nd, a Portland tmblr produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting that shows contributions of community members from that part of the city; gaming and how news games have a special way of engaging people and helping them to learn; how solutions-based journalism focuses on helping society solve its problems; and a project about health success stories called “Transforming Health,” which shows us that positivity can be the best way to attract interaction with community and news.

I learned so many things, but in no way was that my first exposure to outreach and community engagement. I took Participatory Journalism with Joy Mayer about 1.5 years ago and I’ve tried to stay somewhat involved in (or at least a strong supporter of) our newsroom’s outreach efforts ever since.

With my most recent stories, I worked harder than I ever have on my writing, and I think I made great strides. But while paying attention to one area needing improvement, I forgot about another. If I’d taken the time to reach out to the community through social media or PIN, I might have stumbled on a vibrant, smart group of women who feel passionately about teaching kids to read. But I didn’t, so they had to come to me long after the fact. I’m realistic enough to know even that doesn’t happen often.

PIN camp was the wake up call I needed to launch myself back into all facets of journalism, not just writing and reporting. I’m thrilled to work with Joy next fall as the assistant director of community outreach. And I can’t wait to put everything I learned at PIN camp to good use!