Heights Observer is one year old

FutureHeights Executive Director Deanna Bremer Fisher discusses advertising with Lisa Hope, while citizen-journalist Anita Kazarian talks on the phone and volunteers Susan Marshall and Dominique Goodwin help out in the office. Photo by Jane Flaherty.

FutureHeights published the first print issue of the Heights Observer on April 10, 2008. One year later the group has published 545 stories in 12 issues. More than 300 volunteer citizen-journalists have signed up to write stories, 20 volunteers assist in the editing process and 20 “newsies” deliver more than 9,000 copies of  the paper to 176 locations throughout the cities of Cleveland Heights and University Heights. A nine-member advisory board provides advice on journalism and business issues.

Seed funding for the project was provided by the Katherine and Lee Chilcote Foundation, the Cyrus Eaton Foundation, the Dominion Foundation and the members of FutureHeights. Ongoing support is provided by local advertisers and subscriptions.

The Observer focuses on stories that are hyperlocal and citizen-driven. “Anyone can write about anything that is important to them,” says Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer. “Most of our writers are regular citizens with experience in every profession except journalism. They write because they care about what is happening in our community, and we take a light hand in editing to allow the author’s voice to shine through.

“We’ve made plenty of mistakes this first year,” admits Bremer Fisher, “but that’s all part of the learning process.”

The nonprofit organization launched the www.heightsobserver.org Web site and newspaper to fulfill goals determined during a comprehensive strategic planning process: to be a catalyst for public discourse, to be a community advocate, to keep residents informed, to promote citizen involvement, to reflect diversity and to improve the overall quality of life for residents.

 “That we could get this far in a year is a milestone. It's a testament to the single most attractive part of the Heights: the insistence by residents to not just live here, but to proactively make this community all that it is,” says Bob Rosenbaum, a member of the Heights Observer’s advisory board.

“The Heights Observer has far exceeded its goals for the first year and is now an integral part of our community,” says Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley. “I look forward to reading it every month.”

FutureHeights will celebrate the project’s one-year anniversary at its upcoming annual meeting. Author and former senior editor for The New Yorker, Charles Michener, will be the keynote speaker. Current and prospective members are encouraged to attend.

For more information call 216-320-1423 or visit www.futureheights.org.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 11:45 AM, 03.30.2009