Need Legal Aid Help? Get Started

Grassroots journalism in Cleveland

Posted September 2, 2022
12:30 pm

By Malavika Khaitan

In recent years, Cleveland’s news scene has grown with the arrival of two innovative, grassroots journalism organizations: Cleveland Documenters and The Land. The development of grassroots journalism has been a boon to all of us, as many newsworthy events overlooked by mainstream media are captured by grassroots journalists.

Cleveland Documenters is a network of newsrooms and community organizations dedicated to civic media participation. They educate and pay individuals to attend unreported public meetings and publicize the outcomes. Every day, hundreds of public meetings are held by local governments, yet most of them receive no media coverage and produce few records. The Documenters Network is a national organization that was created in 2018 by City Bureau, a nonprofit civic journalism lab. The organization focuses on empowering individuals to access and create the knowledge required to stay informed on the current affairs in the area. It strives to make the work, processes, and tools as transparent and useful as possible.

Documenters are active people who are recruited, taught, and paid by the Documenters Network to participate in the news collecting process, ultimately contributing to a common pool of information. Anyone can become a Documenter by filling out a Documenters application and attending a Documenters Orientation in their area. compiles public meeting dates, hours, places, official documents, and original documentation from cities, counties, and states into a single searchable database. All Documenters content is published on their website and may be freely used under the Attribution 4.0 International Creative Commons license while giving them appropriate credit. Cleveland is one of several cities with a local chapter.

The Land is a local, nonprofit news outlet that focuses on Cleveland’s neighborhoods. Its mission is to encourage accountability, enlighten the community, and motivate people to act through in-depth solutions journalism.

When The Plain Dealer’s newsroom closed in May 2020, there were fewer reporters to serve the Cleveland community. The Land was created in response to this crisis with the goal of providing people trustworthy information, hope, and a sense of belonging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other organizational goals include:

  • Inform the community through high-quality reporting on government, community and economic development, environment and health.
  • Encourage civic involvement in Cleveland’s communities by providing individuals with the information and resources they need to take action.
  • Increase the visibility of community voices via news coverage that represents the different populations served.
  • Collaborate with other media outlets to develop Cleveland’s media ecosystem and provide equal access to information for everyone.

The Land publishes all their content on their website Readers can subscribe to their e-newsletter as well.

Grassroots journalism makes an impact for ordinary people by amplifying their stories that are sometimes ignored by the traditional press. When these narratives resonate with the community, journalism becomes a powerful tool for engagement and change.

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 38, Issue 2, in Summer 2022. See full issue at this link: “The Alert” – Volume 38, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (  

Quick Exit