Barry McNamara  |  Published January 10, 2023

260 Reports

Students learn about issues facing Monmouth through journalism assignment.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A group of Monmouth College students recently took a closer look at the city where they go to school, and they say they discovered some surprising facts about the Maple City.

The students in an “Introduction to Journalism” class (listed as COMM 260) taught by student media adviser Chris Goble immersed themselves in the Monmouth community last fall as part of an investigative reporting assignment titled “260 Reports: Small-Town Challenges and Opportunities,” for which they published a special online report.

The assignment

CHRIS GOBLE: His assignment to journalism class led to series titled 260 Reports. CHRIS GOBLE: His assignment to journalism class led to series titled "260 Reports."“My students contacted over 20 community organizations – public and private, government, for profit and nonprofit – to see what issues the Monmouth community faces,” said Goble, a member of the College’s communication studies faculty. “After researching and interviewing numerous community members, this work shows that the challenges faced by Monmouth are not that different than what many other small communities face. To meet those challenges, it takes a whole community working together to turn challenges into opportunity.”

His students said the project provided them with valuable experiences.

“The most important part of this project was to network successfully to find the contacts who can provide the best information. Networking with community members opens up conversations that can lead to many other opportunities.” Anita Gándara

“This project helps students with potential careers and jobs because of the key element of networking,” said Anita Gándara ’24 of Chicago. “The most important part of this project was to network successfully to find the contacts who can provide the best information. Networking with community members opens up conversations that can lead to many other opportunities. It is beneficial for both sides to become familiar with each other because there are so many opportunities that come from teamwork with the school and community.”

Community engagement

The class is one of several that serves as Monmouth’s new core curriculum general education requirement for community engagement.

“Throughout my interviews with some of the local community members, one thing that really stood out to me was how passionately they love this town,” said Karen Fredrick ’23 of St. Charles, Illinois. “Working on this story allowed me to better understand the larger community around me and its character, which has strengthened my feelings toward it.”

LOCAL ISSUES: Among the topics addressed by Chris Goble's journalism class was housing. LOCAL ISSUES: Among the topics addressed by Chris Goble's journalism class was housing.Several of the stories – which were as long as 1,000 words and which the students worked on in groups of three – focused on housing, including residences for low-income families and individuals and the construction of new dwellings. Other topics included unemployment, transportation, daycare and healthcare.

“It was a really neat opportunity to immerse myself in an issue I knew nothing about,” said Fredrick, who worked on the daycare story.

The students reported that Monmouth’s home-based daycares can only hold between 90-144 children, which means that the community can only provide childcare for about 10% (of approximately 900 children under the age of 9), “though it is important to note that a portion of these children may not need daycare since some parents may stay at home,” reads the article.

Even with the high demand for infant care, Monmouth is seeing fewer in-home providers.

“There’s three or four providers who are going to be retiring soon because they’ve been doing it a long time,” said Sam Brooks, CEO of the Warren County YMCA, in an interview with the students. “And, as of now anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a crop of young in-home providers coming in behind them. … At some point, my fear is it’s going to get to the point where there’s just not going to be options for young families and we’re going to start losing them. And every small community has to have young families in order to thrive. They just have to. Otherwise, the town just continues to age and gets older and then eventually dries up.”

To read “260 Reports: Small-Town Challenges and Opportunities,” click here.

Real-life experiences

Fredrick said conducting such interviews pushed her out of her comfort zone.

“There were moments when I found myself nervous or stressed about sitting down to talk with a stranger, but I’m grateful for the opportunities and the confidence they built in me,” she said. “That personal aspect of this project, connecting with people, is something I’m sure will serve me well no matter what job I find myself in.”

Like Fredrick, Gándara is still formulating her post-Monmouth plans, but the political science and communication studies double major said, “I would like to work in a field involving something with people, politics and government. I find social issues captivating, and I want to focus my career on working with people in the communities I am part of.”

One of their classmates, Bailey Shimmin ’23 of Monmouth, believes the assignment will help her.

“I plan to attend graduate school for library and information science, specifically focusing on archives and special collections. Then, I hope to work in an archive,” she said. “As an archivist, I might need to get involved within the community to give them access to the archive or to obtain historical materials that could be housed within the archive. Both being an archivist and this project rely heavily on community involvement.”

Shimmin came at the assignment as a student with strong local ties, but she still learned a thing or two.

“I was surprised by how connected the Monmouth community and the Monmouth College campus are to each other,” she said. “Sometimes when you are on campus, it feels like you’re completely separate from the community, but through this process, I saw how similar we are and how we can connect to each other.”

Listen Up …

Student media adviser Chris Goble, Karen Fredrick ’23 and Bailey Shimmin ’23 discuss their work on “260 Reports: Small-Town Challenges and Opportunities.”

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