Mississippi Partnership Is First To Plan Community Forum Series

The Relevance Project is proud to confirm its role in the first statewide launch of THE Community Forum project.

Mississippi will be the incubator where four different newspapers will test the transformative strategy that has civil, civic engagement at its core to dramatically improve local media’s Relevance. They also will select the pressing issues to explore as well as invite citizens to join them in better understanding what’s at stake and what can be done to improve a region’s quality of life. 

Two Community Forums are planned for February. Two more are expected to take place in March. (We are watching COVID developments to ensure safety.)

The rollout is a result of an unusual partnership among the Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation, the Mississippi Humanities Council and The Relevance Project, an initiative of Newspaper Managers Association. 

The Community Forum propels the local newspaper as THE Relevant convener, bringing together citizens and civic leaders to discuss issues of importance, while deepening the coverage of related solutions.

For almost a year now, The Relevance Project has developed a set of tools that can guide press associations and their newspaper members in becoming THE Community Forum, offering an alternative to the print-only model of publishing. Recently, The Relevance Project added a Community Forum section to www.relevanceproject.net to display best practices and to track progress.

I hope to be in Mississippi for all four forums, while also helping each newsroom plan and orchestrate the programs. The first planning session took place this week.  

The initial Mississippi forums are scheduled for Feb. 16 in Biloxi and Feb. 17 in McComb. The programs will be planned, organized and moderated by the Sun Herald in Biloxi and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb. 

The March participants will be announced soon. 

“This is the first-of-its-king program that will roll out across the nation…,” said Mississippi Press Association Executive Director Layne Bruce. “And we are very pleased to be partnering with the Humanities Council to foster these civic engagement programs across the state.”
The MPA Education Foundation provides scholarships and internships, while also hosting programs that focus on the importance of community journalism. 

Thanks to the Humanities Council, the Mississippi Community Forums are underwritten in part by generous support from the Mellon Foundation. It’s impressive how much the non-profit Council is eager to help newspapers in their role as the trusted news source. The Council provides public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines, with the humanities being the study of history, literature, religion, languages, philosophy and culture. 

Be THE Community Forum was the theme of the 2021 National Newspaper Week, which allowed The Relevance Project to explain the strategy so local news operations could foster community dialogue that makes a difference.

Cheers to Mississippi for wanting to help newspapers transform into THE Community Forum.  The Relevance Project remains eager to learn who has the desire and gusto to be next.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

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