Democracy Watch is a collaboration between WGCU Public Media and Florida Gulf Coast University’s Journalism Program.
In the fall of 2021, three FGCU Journalism students were selected as Democracy Watch Fellows after taking a government reporting course. The Fellows have reported on a range of issues for WGCU—from transportation costs, healthcare in underserved communities and voting machines, to the local economic impact from the baseball lockout, teacher shortages and affordable housing. Their stories covered topics of interest for listeners in WGCU’s primary broadcast area, from Marco Island to Charlotte County.
The early success of Democracy Watch demonstrates great potential to expand the program and further increase coverage of local government. Democracy Watch is a stepping stone for talented college journalists to become professional reporters while enhancing coverage of important community news for the WGCU audience. This collaboration between students and professional journalists helps build better understanding of important issues facing residents of Southwest Florida. Community reporting empowers citizens and visitors to make more informed decisions, resulting in increased civic engagement.
The program began with a fall Democracy Watch Course where up to 10 students take this advanced-level course on government reporting. Students learn about open meetings and records laws; develop contacts in city and county governments; cover meetings; pitch, report and write stories; and develop ideas for larger (enterprise) stories and/or beats in conjunction with WGCU. WGCU has final editorial on stories and publishes stories that meet our news room standards. Three Fellows are selected from the Democracy Watch course to work at WGCU Public Media the following semester as paid interns. Led by a Journalism faculty member, the Fellows attend news meetings, pitch stories and coordinate coverage with the WGCU news team. The Fellows produce stories under the guidance of the faculty member and alongside WGCU reporters and editors. The goal is to offer a a graduating senior a one-year paid position at WGCU through the Democracy Watch program.