Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Listen to AHA’s new podcast exploring community journalism in rural Alabama. And discover how citizen-produced newspapers can help build community, preserve history, and sustain our very democracy.

An AHA Podcast: Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Maybe the question isn’t: “Are community newspapers still worth publishing?” Maybe the question we should be asking is: “Can we sustain a functioning democracy without community-minded journalism?”

Since 1900, Alabama has lost around 90 percent of its newspapers. Can citizen-created community newspapers reverse that trend? And can learning more about our neighbors generate the kind of goodwill needed for thriving communities and a healthy democracy?

Host Byron Williams explores these questions and more in conversations with journalists, scholars, and community residents of rural Alabama.

Listen along and explore the future of journalism in rural Alabama — and discover why the answers are so important. In an era when the definition of truth can’t be agreed upon, community newspapers may be one of our greatest tools to combat disinformation, help neighbors see past their differences, and sustain a functioning democracy.


All episodes now available, below!

Democracy and the Informed Citizen is a five-episode podcast series presented by the Alabama Humanities Alliance. The series is part of a national initiative exploring the connections between democracy, journalism, and an informed citizenry. Funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” a multiyear project administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils.


Read the press release
A conversation with Gary and Jerrie Burton of Montgomery County, Alabama, publishers of a community-based newspaper, The Pintlala Ledger. Can citizen journalism restore goodwill between neighbors and bring a community together? And what does a community lose when there’s no local news source — and, thus, no historical record preserved? Read the paper that inspired this conversation: The Pintlala Ledger Listen to the next episode
A conversation with Mary and Freddie Howard of Monroe County, Alabama, publishers of The Beatrice Legacy. Here in Beatrice, as Mary Howard notes, Black people still mostly live on one side of the railroad tracks; White people on the other. Can a community newspaper successfully serve as a bridge between oft-divided townspeople? Listen to the next episode

Conversations with scholars George Daniels (University of Alabama) and Nan Fairley (Auburn University) about today's media climate and the state of citizen journalism. Thank goodness that not all newspapers are dead. Community-minded newspapers are often the only journalism outlets covering local stories and local issues. They’re also the only outlets “rendering lives in full” — documenting the lives of neighbors from birth announcements and graduations to marriages and obituaries.

Listen to the next episode

Conversations with Jean Mosley and Cameron Brooks of Tallapoosa County, Alabama, one-time partners in publication of the Camp Hill Chronicle. Community newspapers don’t just bring their readers together; often, they bring together staffers from vastly different ages, races, and backgrounds. Case in point: For two years, Brooks, a high school student, helped put together the Camp Hill Chronicle with Mosley, a retired librarian and the paper’s octogenarian publisher.

Listen to the next episode

Conversations with Garrett Lane and Fred Fluker, whose roots in rural Alabama community newspaper efforts inspired their careers in journalism and media — and a shared hopefulness about journalism being produced by the PACERS Network today. What drives “regular citizens” to start newspapers from scratch in their own hometowns? What can media professionals learn from these citizen journalists? And what do we need to do to ensure these labor-of-love newspapers stick around long-term in our communities?

Thank you to the individuals and organizations who made this series possible:

Funding: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Administration: Federation of State Humanities Councils

Podcast Partner: Alabama A&M University’s WJAB-FM

AHA Host: Byron Williams

AHA Project Editor: Laura C. Anderson

Musician: Wu10 (Kelvin Wooten)

Audio engineer: Michael L. Burns

Original music for the Democracy and the Informed Citizen podcast was composed and performed by Grammy Award-winning artist Wu10 (aka Kelvin Wooten), an artist, composer, and producer based in Alabama’s Limestone County.


Project Partners
  • PACERS Rural Community News Network
  • Auburn University School of Communication and Journalism
  • The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences
  • Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities
  • Alabama A&M University’s Electronic media Communications
  • David Mathews Center for Civic Life
Read the press release