Heights Observer partners with WJCU-FM

Mark Krieger, director of WJCU-FM  in his studio.

The Heights Observer is expanding its community outreach efforts through collaboration with John Carroll University’s WJCU-FM Radio Station (88.7). Starting on August 18, WJCU-FM will launch the first in a series of 90-second weekly podcasts featuring stories from the current issue of the Heights Observer.

The partnership is an effort to reach a broader audience of Cleveland Heights and University Heights residents. The marriage of radio and the internet is growing in importance, and such a partnership recognizes the notion that the future of radio is the internet.

According to Mark Krieger, director of WJCU-FM and adjunct assistant professor of communication and theatre arts, the station had been looking for years to do a locally based community news product that would provide a consistent format over a long duration. Enter JCU Alumni and WTAM’s Nate Marinchick who proposed a partnership with a local community newspaper.

In a serendipitous way, the Heights Observer was brought to the attention of Krieger, who was introduced to Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights which publishes the newspaper. The rest, they say, is part of history-making that will get underway on August 18. “This is a good collaboration, and is a big part of what has been the missing link in WJCU- FM programming," says Krieger. WJCU’s mission has always included a need to serve community interests and taste, but local news programming devoted to that part of the mission has not always been available until recently.

Currently, Heights Observer stories can be read online (http://www.heightsobserver.org) or by picking up a free print version of the newspaper at a local retailer. This new collaboration, which provides a third avenue to access news, “is synergistic and adds another element that allows for all three pieces (print, radio, and internet) to feed off of each other,” says Fisher. "It is evident that this will be an extension of the paper. In recent times, people have accessed the media in so many different ways and each one reinforces the other."

Fisher expressed enthusiasm on the collaboration with John Carroll University, which is located in University Heights, one of the two communities the paper serves. “This partnership gives us an opportunity to reach out in a way we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” says Fisher. Mark Majewski, board president of FutureHeights, notes that the paper is only in its fifth issue and already there’s a connection to help it expand. "This is surprising for a very young newspaper," Majewski adds. “There’s a symbiosis between the paper and the podcast and it’s reaching out in a new way to the communities we serve – Cleveland Heights and University Heights."

Fisher explained that this partnership is in line with the efforts of the Heights Observer to increase coverage to further its goals of creating and building community while encouraging civic engagement.

"I just see this as a beginning and hope we can build on this partnership, because we have all the tools in place," says Krieger. According to Fisher, “we continue to be encouraged by the responsiveness of the community and we see so much potential with this relationship and the 90-second podcast.”

Yemi Akande, a Cleveland Heights resident, is currently senior director of civic education at Cleveland Leadership Center and was previously assistant professor of communication and theatre arts at John Carroll University.

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Volume 1, Issue 5, Posted 11:41 AM, 07.23.2008