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About the Lab

We want to get people interested in and passionate about the things happening in their locality to a degree that moves them – journalism tools in hand – to report. Every aspect of The Journalism Lab is animated by the belief that regular people not only can do this work, but that they should do it.

Our impact will be measured by the stories produced by our correspondents and published in mainstream media outlets. We graduated our first class of participants in early March of 2021. In a short time, we have already succeeded in getting stories published.

Image courtesy of Stephen Starr

Our goals

Help citizens learn and become better informed of events in their own communities

Fill the gap left by downsizing and budget restrictions experienced by traditional media outlets

Introduce journalism as a potential career path for individuals in Dayton, Ohio

Why Dayton?

More than perhaps any other US city, Dayton epitomizes the rise and precipitous fall of post-industrial America over the past 50 years. It is one of the most segregated cities in the country, and Dayton’s poverty levels rank among the highest nationally for metropolitan areas of an equivalent size. 

While many organizations that support journalism initiatives are focusing their efforts on the east and west coasts, middle America struggles to attract that same vital attention and assistance. Meanwhile, political operatives and their agendas threaten to reshape, even manipulate, local news outlets here in the Midwest in covert ways.

In many ways, Dayton represents a cross section of American life. Ohio is still an important bellwether and battleground state for U.S. politics. Our city, itself experiencing a revitalization, is the ideal place for bold experimentation and a fresh reevaluation of how a community can participate in its own storytelling.

Meet the advocates

Stephen Starr

Stephen Starr is an Irish journalist and author who moved to Dayton in 2018. He has reported from 16 countries for outlets such as National Geographic, BBC News, the Guardian and others. He is the author of Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising.

Nick Hrkman

Nicholas Hrkman is a Dayton-based writer and community advocate. He is a Dayton Public Schools graduate and recipient of the Dayton Daily News Si Burick Scholarship. He received a Bachelor of Sciences degree from the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in 2009. Prior to the creation of The Journalism Lab, he worked in various media and communications roles for the past 10 years.

Steve Bennish

Steve Bennish is a 30-year veteran of daily newspapers. He’s now a freelance reporter, photographer and editor based in Dayton. His books of photography are “Scrappers,” “A City of Neighbors,” and “Parallel Universe.”

Mary Evans

Mary Evans is an audio journalist and radio producer. She is a social justice activist and uses her platform to provide space for underrepresented communities. As the co-creator, producer, and host of, Re Entry Stories a NPR-affiliated radio show and podcast that features conversations between people who were once in prison, she does just that.