Community Newspapers Breakout

The 96th annual Newspapers Canada National Conference and Trade Show provided many learning experiences for people to sit in on and experience growth from keynote speakers in the publishing industry. Although the conference followed a strict schedule, the afternoon schedule split into four different sessions to give the attendees the option to have a more intimate setting for presentations. The Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA) welcomed Courage Group International to provide publishers and interested participants alike, to talk about topics that matter to each individual and their communities in a session called "Community Newspapers".

Michelle Cooper, co-founder of Courage Group International led the workshop using Open Space Technology (OST). OST is the name given to a session without a predetermined agenda in order to promote learning and change in both community and organizational settings. OST allows for a dialogue of relevant topics to increase the success of community newspapers by working together, using technology and social media, and producing a quality paper.

“Open Space Technology meetings enable the building of energy and participation in ways that few other processes do. They create the conditions for interactive processes that allow leadership to surface naturally and that support creativity, deep learning and high play,” according to the report of proceedings comprised during the OST meeting.
Leading the OST meeting, Cooper and Caroline Medwell, Executive Director of OCNA, opened with an opening plenary at which the purpose, background, boundaries and form of the meeting were introduced. Participants were seated in a circle and invited to share their ideas. Sitting in a circle symbolizes the concept that “leadership comes from each and every one of us and every person’s contribution is valued equally.”
With the open forum, participants where given the opportunity to schedule groups to discuss their topics further in depth and to brainstorm potential movements to put their plans in action.

The theme for this year’s OST was “how to build on our strengths to co-create a successful future” and anticipated useful results for those who participated in the open discussion. Community involvement, quality journalism competing with low-cost journalism and vertical product as a revenue stream were some of the topics of discussion throughout the four reported group sessions.

Participants were welcomed back at the end of the session to reflect on their group discussions with their peers. With an overall successful outcome, the contributors shared their concerns and triumphs including focusing on strengths, dealing with issues that really matter, becoming more precise and being better at what you are.
After an inspiring session comprised of intelligent people sharing their opinions and ideas, the participants were able to gain motivation for action and create plans for the future.

After the two and a half hour brainstorming session, participants walked out of the meeting room with motivated thoughts about the future of publication. Medwell concluded the session with an intriguing thought about media to resonate in the participants’ minds as they filed out, “the future of digital is print.”