Building Democracy: We’re Opening Our Reporter’s Notebooks

Shasta Scout is organized around principles and processes that encourage our readers to become our collaborators in the production of local news. We’re also working to increase trust in the news by breaking down barriers between journalists and the public. As part of that process, we’re about to open our notebooks to members.

Shasta Scout first began publishing stories in March of 2021, one year ago. Without money, a real website, paid staff, or any kind of established audience, we shared our first story and watched a community begin to gather around our work. 

We had a vision for a new kind of news media. One that was funded by local community members and business sponsorships, not corporate hedge funds. One that was independent from local power structures, so it could tell the truth in ways that explained bigger systemic issues and held the powerful accountable. We wanted to build a media organization that would report the news both for, and with, the people. 


We wanted to build a media organization that would report the news both for, and with, the people. 


In the last 12 months, with just one full-time and one part-time staff member, we’ve published over 100 stories focused on government accountability, political and religious extremism, the environment, Indigenous affairs, and community engagement. We’ve launched a website that’s drawing almost 10,000 unique visitors a month. We’ve built Signals, our weekly newsletter, to 1400 subscribers. We’ve developed a growing Instagram audience that engages deeply with our surveys and polls, helping us learn. We’ve won big financial prizes and important national recognition. And we’ve cultivated a relationship with our readers that’s brought us tips, ideas and feedback that have been invaluable to our work. 

Now, one year in, we’re ready to take another step forward towards deeper collaboration with our community. We’re launching Open Notebooks, a way for our members to peek into the minds of our journalists and watch the work of reporting from behind the scenes. Our Open Notebooks will allow you to observe our journalistic process, from the first questions our journalists ask, to what we eventually learn from our work. 

This project is a reflection of our commitment to investing a significant portion of our journalists’ time in engaging and interacting with you, our readers. We believe that the news is something very different from entertainment produced for an “audience”; it’s a way to communicate critical information and increase people’s engagement in their community. That’s why we’re using our Open Notebooks to continually invite you in, asking you to share your ideas for where we can find more information or alternate perspectives, encouraging you to share your expertise, and listening when you have criticism for our assumptions. We believe this kind of collaboration between reporters and readers leads to stronger journalism and a stronger democracy.

We’ll also be sharing some of our internal processing as it relates to our journalistic work: what’s fascinating us, what we’re learning, what’s motivating our work, and what’s concerning us. We hope this helps you better understand the complexities we face as we seek to respond to information needs within our deeply polarized community.

You should know that a practice like the Open Notebooks is practically unheard of in the world of journalism, where story leads are deeply kept secrets. And while many journalists carefully create distance between themselves and their readers in the pursuit of “objectivity,” we’re pressing in instead, looking for ways to get to know you better. We want to be honest with our readers that, like everyone, we have a worldview, opinions and perspectives that influence our work. We also want to be clear that our personal perspectives won’t keep us from fairly and accurately reporting the news in a way you can trust.

The Open Notebooks project is a big act of trust on our part. We’re hoping that sharing the deeper side of our journalistic work with our members is worth the increased vulnerability. And we hope that by reducing the distance between us and our readers, we’ll also be building your trust in us. 

It’s our goal that the Notebooks help you to see us as we really are: the sincere, detailed, fallible, funny, curious, over-thinking people who report your news. And then, as Rob Wijnberg, founding editor of The Correspondent says, you’ll see that journalists are not the enemies of the people, we are just people. People trying to make sense of this complex and confounding world. Just like you. 


It’s our goal that the Open Notebooks help you to see us as we really are: the sincere, detailed, fallible, funny, curious, over-thinking people who report your news. And then you’ll see that journalists are not the enemies of the people, we are just people. People trying to make sense of this complex and confounding world. Just like you. 


As we begin hiring new journalists to report more of the diverse and in-depth news of Shasta County, we already know we’re not looking for candidates with the most gleaming resumes or the fanciest pedigrees. Instead we’re looking for humans who are insatiably curious, deeply engaged in life and community, and anchored by integrity. People like us. People like many of you. Our dream reporters will be people who don’t just share facts, but make us long to learn more. People who don’t just convey information, but open up whole worlds of learning and understanding. Reporters who inspire their communities to become more deeply engaged community members, working to build a stronger democracy. 

Shasta Scout is not like most other news media organizations. We’re building something radically different. A deeply engaged, community-oriented, ethical, innovative, and adaptable organization that we think has the capacity to create increased safety, connection, and community in Shasta County. One year in, we’re glad to report that the work of Shasta Scout is thriving. Thank you for partnering with us in beginning to make independent, non-profit news for Shasta County a reality. 

Shasta Scout’s Open Notebooks are inspired by the innovative work of The Correspondent. Our deepest gratitude. Do you have a question or comment? Email us at [email protected]


Our first Open Notebook entry will launch tomorrow, April 1, 2022. While Shasta Scout’s news will always be free for all, some benefits, like our Open Notebooks, will only be available to members who donate  $5/month or more. By providing special benefits to encourage your monthly recurring donations, we increase our sustainability, allowing us to provide more news to more of our county for many years to come. You can become a member by beginning your monthly donations here. If you’re already a monthly donor, you’ll have immediate access to the Notebooks as the first new entry launches tomorrow.

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