West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism students are using the media skills they are learning in the classroom to improve a local community’s economy.

Dr. Rita Colistra’s public relations writing and applications course is teaming with the Ritchie County Progress Alliance to promote its Buy Local Initiative, a project to increase awareness of the economic benefit of shopping close to home.

“We hope for increased awareness by the local citizens that their purchases make a big difference in the economic impact of the county,” said Linda Bowlby, small-business owner and chair of the Ritchie Progress Alliance’s Buy Local Committee.

The 18 journalism students will travel to Ritchie County during the spring semester to help local business owners produce promotional publications and media pieces, plan events, and improve communication with the community. The students began with a blog to chronicle their travels and experiences, which can be viewed at http://buylocalinitiative.blogs.wvu.edu/. The blog can also be accessed from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism website at http://journalism.wvu.edu/.

“Traveling for the Buy Local Initiative is definitely something different because I have never interacted with an actual client,” said Julie Hildenbrand, a public relations junior. “I have only been involved in fake scenarios, so it was a great experience.”

The project is made possible by a $5,000 Campus-Community LINK grant, which was obtained by the Buy Local Committee and Colistra through the WVU Center for Civic Engagement and West Virginia Campus Compact.

The grant allows the class to fund visits to Ritchie County, cover costs for promotional pieces and purchase multimedia equipment, including Flip video cameras, to document the experience.

“I knew I had to be a part of [the Buy Local Initiative] because I am a native West Virginian who grew up in a rural area,” said Colistra. “I’m a strong believer in service learning, and I want to give back to the state in a way that can help communities help themselves.”

Throughout the semester, the students hope to provide the local business owners with tools to promote the Buy Local Initiative even after the course concludes.

“We want to see progress,” said Bridget Feeney, a public relations junior. “We truly want to help the Buy Local Initiative and the people and businesses of Ritchie County.”

A division of the Ritchie Progress Alliance, the Buy Local Committee was established in 2010 to increase community awareness of the importance and economic value of shopping at local businesses rather than those outside the county.

For more information about the Ritchie County Buy Local Initiative, contact Dave Scott at 304-643-2738.



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CONTACT: Katlin Stinespring
304-421-5500; kstinesp@mix.wvu.edu