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Cantabrians share their earthquake experiences

CERA launch
Story collaborators: UC student Max Towle, left, and Christchurch East resident John Sykes.

University of Canterbury journalism students successfully wrapped up their community journalism project at a publication launch with their interviewees.

The Graduate Diploma of Journalism students have been recording people’s everyday stories about the Canterbury earthquakes and recovery as part of Connecting our Stories, a project aimed at developing new ways for journalists to engage with and report on their communities.

Students worked closely with interviewees to co-write stories – revisiting their interviewees to collaborate on story drafts, and submitting final versions only when their interviewees had ticked them off.

Speaking at the launch, senior journalism lecturer Tara Ross said she hoped the project would help to build connections between the university and the wider community.

“These stories at the grassroots are the ones that go untold, but they are the ones that need to be told for the sake of the community.”

The Connecting our Stories project was developed in partnership with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s community resilience team.

CERA deputy chief executive Michelle Mitchell said it was “an outstanding contribution to the community-led component of the recovery”.

Some of the interviewees chose to share their experiences at the launch, including Paddy Brandon who said it was “a pleasure” to work on the project, and noted how it related to his motto: “You’ve got to start doing things with people not to people”.

Fairfax Media intern Sarah-Jane O’Connor spoke on behalf of the journalism class about how good it felt to “have been involved in a project that will be entered in the local history”.

“I felt very honoured that (Peter Hansen) opened up and told me (his story)”, she said.

Emily Spink, another student, said she had “come away with far more than a story”.

She spoke of how a bond had formed between her and her interviewee, Emma Friedauer, and how they planned on meeting for tea and scones in the future.

Those stories can now be found on the programme’s website, The Record, and will be added to the university’s earthquake digital archive, CEISMIC, along with audio-visual recordings of the interviews.

_Andrew Voerman