The Chicago-based non-profit newsroom City Bureau is launching a civic platform that aims to reinvent the relationship between  local journalists and citizens — by making them collaborators.

As most local outlets have been forced to downsize their operations and can’t carry out properly their watchdog mission, the project Documenters wants to train & pay volunteers to attend public meetings on various issues.

Now available in Chicago and Detroit, the program features an online platform which keeps track of all the meetings and centralizes the documentation produced by volunteers. It’s complemented by free training sessions, which help keep the output as qualitative as possible.

It’s a smart idea to leverage the power of citizens to collect data of public interest. Documenters puts a new spin on the whole ‘citizen journalism’ concept — one that works hand in hand with professional media rather than as an amateur alternative or competitor. Journalists will become more efficient in keeping an eye on various city-level decisions, while the civic engagement of many citizens will be strengthened and rewarded.

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