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​OK, there is my elevator speech. Several weeks worth of condensing ideas, plans and hopes to come up with a relatable, Facebook-able, text-able soundbite about why I’ve thrown my life into the middle of a whirlwind to tackle this endeavor.

​But as true-to-the-core as they are, those words leave out – as most short stories do – the nuances of the tale. 

​Strangely, the best way I can think to start this examination of my motivations and mission is to borrow the words of others:

​"At its best, journalism informs the public on matters of civic concern, gives citizens a common set of facts, provides context that lends greater meaning to the news, independently monitors and holds those in power accountable, and strengthens the public discourse. Good journalism helps us to understand others whose lives and challenges are very different from our own." (Aspen Institute)

​But as anyone will tell you, it's hard to find journalism "at its best" these days. And that, I suppose, is part of my mission – to change that perception.

Journalism’s mandate, when reduced to its original intent, is to serve as a watchdog. To hold elected officials accountable. To help citizens understand the issues their communities face and to provide the information necessary to help those citizens make good decisions – for themselves, their families and their community.

Journalism, then, is about information, investigation and analysis… and ‘journalism’ can be boring. After all, no one picks up a city budget or county road plan to take to the beach on vacation (well, no one but a journalist!). But local  journalism is also about civil discourse. It is about engagement. It is about community.

And this is where ConnectLocal needs you. What topics are truly important to the community? Who are this community's unsung heroes and behind-the-scenes innovators? What does this community aspire to, and what is this community frightened of? The answers to those questions, and questions like them, are what guides the editorial engine of a truly local paper. And those answers must come from the community.

ConnectLocal is always open to comments and critiques. Suggestions for stories and requests for coverage are always welcome. Whether by email or text, social media messages or in person, I am always thankful for news tips and happy to discuss article ideas. But as welcome as those are, they fall short of “engagement” and lack the quantitative aspect of civil discourse.

To bridge that gap, one of my main objectives in the coming months will be to organize and implement a monthly "coffee and conversation" type of informal forum, hosted by ConnectLocal and area businesses, restaurants, organizations and individuals, where Toccoa/Stephens County citizens can gather to discuss current events, tackle issues of importance in the community, and submit questions they would like ConnectLocal to find answers to, events they would like to see covered, and topics they would like investigated.

Stay tuned for more information on this endeavor in the coming weeks!

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