Last weekend, the Small World News team attended Digital Journalism Camp 2011 in downtown Portland.

Digital Journalism Camp is about spending the day with the people who are actively changing journalism. You're going to learn from " and share with " the people who have found solutions to the challenges you face, whether you're a beat reporter, a blogger or a publisher.

We were lucky enough to be invited onto a panel called "Unheard Voices: Can digital tools give marginalized communities a voice?" From what we heard from the panelists, the short answer to that question is a resounding "yes!"

While Small World News focuses exclusively on overseas journalism, panelists Lisa Loving, Israel Bayer, and Craig Fondren showed us that the challenges of bringing unheard voices to the fore, be they training, funding, or building relationships, are the same no matter where you are.

Andrew Spittleblogged about the conference, and he had this to say about the panel:

Israel Bayer, direc­tor of Street­roots, talked about their efforts to bring the home­less into all aspects of jour­nal­ism. He also noted that, while some think a web pres­ence would under­cut street sales, their sis­ter paper in Seat­tle launched a web­site and saw their sales increase 40%. He pointed out that it's the tech­ni­cal parts of a project that are the easy. It's the rela­tion­ships and build­ing of a com­mu­nity that are difficult.

Craig Fon­dren of Sabin Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion talked a lot about how they edu­cate their com­mu­nity in the tools of jour­nal­ism. They focus heav­ily on bring­ing many gen­er­a­tions into their work­shops. As he put it, If you can get online we have a class for you. If I have your kid in one of our classes then I'm going to get you in a class and I'm going to get grandma too. They put a lot of work into senior instruction.

Lisa Loving also hit on a very important point, which is the impact this reporting can have on policy makers. Referring to Bayer's project Streetroots, she noted that even a seemingly small project (say, distributing media-enabled cellphones to the homeless) will "percolate to the top." As Small World News has noted in the past, the stories of local citizens on the ground add much needed context for journalists, analysts, and decision makers, as well as the general news consuming audience.

Special thanks to moderator Cornelius Swart for inviting us onto the panel, and to Jeff Bunch and Eitan Tsur who recorded the panels.

For more videos from Digital Journalism Camp 2011, head over to Doc Normal's blog.