TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Your Capitol Bureau, a student-staffed news service, has launched its Web site with legislative news for Panhandle counties.
Your Capitol Bureau covers the Legislature for 19 non-daily newspapers and seven radio stations in 11 North Florida counties. The 8-year-old bureau launched its Web site this month: www.northwestfloridaonline.com/index.php/FAMU_capitol_bureau/.
The Web site is hosted by WMBB-TV, Panama City, and was designed by the station’s Web master, Gene Hilsheimer. The TV station’s reporters can mine the bureau’s Web site for ideas for stories to broadcast on WMMB news.
“The Internet is a great source of leads,” said Hilsheimer. “What starts out as rumor on the Internet may turn out to have legs. In this way, a news staff can be more effective watchdogs on state government.”
WMBB and the bureau share audiences in five counties: Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin and Gulf. The bureau also reports on the Legislature for Suwannee, Leon, Gadsden, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton counties.
The WMBB partnership with the bureau was initiated by Bureau Chief Gale Workman, a FAMU journalism professor.
“For seven years, non-daily newspapers from Holmes to Hamilton counties have published Your Capitol Bureau (YCB) stories," said Workman. "For readers in most of these rural counties, our stories have provided the only localized information about the Florida Legislature. With the Web site, we’re reaching more readers, faster.”
Online publishing “helps journalists disseminate information faster,” said Meredith Clark, associate community conversations editor for the Tallahassee Democrat and a former YCB reporter who earned her master’s degree in journalism from FAMU.
“YCB can now almost instantly report the stories that matter to smaller papers," said Clark. "Now readers don’t have to wait.”
According to Workman, having a Web site is also a great teaching tool.
"Today’s students are the Internet generation," said Workman. "The immediate feedback of seeing their stories published on the Web motivates student reporters.”
Workman said she also uses the immediate feedback in “teachable moments” with her 12 YCB students.
“If a bureau reporter makes a mistake, we hear about it lightning fast,” said Workman. “And, now, reader feedback comes directly to us instead of being filtered through the editors of the non-daily newspapers.”
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