Your local officials are making big decisions. The Documenters make it easy to keep tabs.

In the central San Joaquin Valley, there are dozens of public meetings each month. They’re important spaces for democracy where anyone can drop in and have a voice in local government. Some are covered by local news, but a lot of them aren’t and the Documenters fill that critical gap.

The Documenters program is a network of community members who we train and pay to attend and document local government meetings. Since Fresnoland launched the program in 2020, we’ve covered more than 500 public meetings spanning Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties.

In 2022, we’re expanding the program even further by teaming up with City Bureau, a Chicago-based nonprofit media lab, and its Documenters Network of cities across the country. We’ll be offering more opportunities for local Documenters to cover a wider variety of meetings to keep local government responsive and help people organize for solutions to civic issues.

Together, we’re creating a new public record to shine a light on the decisions being made in our community.

What is a Documenter?

We train, pay, and deploy people to cover public and community meetings. It’s democratizing information – and providing an opportunity for community members to cover the issues they know their fellow community members care about most.

You’ll find Documenters live-tweeting and taking notes at your local city council, water district, planning commission and board of supervisor meetings throughout the central San Joaquin Valley.

You can find their notes and tweet threads posted here on Fresnoland.org and Documenters.org, in the future.

How can I become a Documenter?

Applications are now being accepted for our third cohort of Documenters.

We plan to begin information sessions in August 2022 with training to follow this fall.

Documenters don’t need formal training – we welcome people with diverse backgrounds and a desire to improve civic engagement in their community. You definitely don’t need to be a journalist to apply; we’ll teach you how to take notes, live-tweet, learn the ethics of journalism and media and interview others.

We believe that everyone has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in our local governments – and that the tools of journalism should be available for anyone to use to cover their own communities best.

What is the pay and hours like for a typical Documenter?

Documenters make $20 per hour on assignment – this includes their time for covering the meeting as well as the time it takes to clean up their notes into a standardized format.

A typical assignment lasts anywhere from 1 – 4 hours.

Assignments are made on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is no minimum guarantee of hours for a Documenter.

How do I know if I’m qualified to be a Documenter?

We train you, so no prior experience required! That being said, we do screen potential Documenters for conflicts of interest that might impede your ability to document public meetings in a fair and impartial way. Documenters cannot be public or elected officials or work for the public agency they are covering.

Where can I get more information?

Check out this informational video here.