Newsroom inspirations

Create a newsroom wide community service initiative for the holidays

In light of recent events like the red cup controversy or Black Friday rebellions, people are talking more than ever before about what the holidays are all about, or rather what they aren’t about. #GivingTuesday, a worldwide day devoted to giving that started on social media, purposefully takes place on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the charitable season.

With only a week away from the philanthropic day, what better time to consider how your newsroom can give back to the community? With a little dedication and teamwork, it’s something you can start now and roll out in time for the holidays. We’ve asked Megan Cole, the Educational Coordinator for The Leader in Corning, NY, how her newsroom established their own community service program called GateHouse Gives.

The program, which formally started this year, is an organized effort to reconnect newspapers with their communities and provide support for local community services and charities. Currently, The Leader, The Horseheads Shopper and The Steuben Courier work together on a handful of projects including a Thanksgiving food drive, a back to school sock and shoe drive, and an afterschool professional development outreach for teens called Leaders After Hours.

Here’s how your newsroom can get started and give back to the community:

Ask around

Like any reporter knows, sometimes the best way to get a story is simply by asking around town. This means checking in with food banks, after school programs, homeless shelters, and more, and seeing what needs aren’t being matched. Feeling overwhelmed? Cole, who has a background in nonprofit work, advises asking yourself this question: what can we do to make the most impact in our community?

Use social media

One of the most crucial keys to GateHouse Gives’ success is their social media outreach. Once you’ve established who you can help and what you can do, spread awareness throughout the community by getting online. For their holiday drive, The Leader took a creative spin by having a toy elf named “Phil” the face of their campaign. Using the hashtag #PhilTheBox (a clever play on “fill the box”), their team photographed the elf around the office to encourage social media users to participate in their charity.

Assign a point person

Just like your editorial section has a leader or your digital team has its own head, having a go to person for your community outreach will make things easier from day one. “Somebody has to be able and willing to be the point person. This takes up a significant part of my week and to be successful you have to the time to establish your program,” Cole said.

Keep working

Giving back to your community is an infectious feeling. Run with it! There’s no limit to the people you can help, Cole explains. Encourage employees to serve their community by fostering an environment that embraces new ideas. For instance, Cole’s initiative currently allows employees to volunteer up to four hours per month during regular business hours.

If you have any questions or want to talk more about starting your own community service initiative, feel free to talk personally with Cole. You can contact her at or at 607-936-4651 ext 339.



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