Over the past few years, we’ve made it a point to get key parts of our news operation out of the News Tower and into the community, reasoning that the best place to hear what’s on people’s minds is on their own turf.

We’ve held public editorial board meetings — “road shows,” we call them — with neighborhood associations, young professionals and in community rooms around town, and we’ve conducted structured community conversations surrounding some of the toughest local issues.

We’ve also taught classes on news literacy, the set of skills needed to distinguish credible information from its lesser cousins in the digital age.

Two recent excursions illustrate what I mean.

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Last month, I collaborated with Chris Krug, a longtime newsroom leader who now runs the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, to lead an hourlong news literacy event for 75 students from Boylan Catholic and Rockford Lutheran high schools.

We used a curriculum produced by MediaWise, a partnership involving the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, the Stanford History Education Group, the Local Media Association and the National Association for Media Literacy Education, with support from Google. MediaWise hopes to reach more than 1 million students by the end of next year, equipping them with the tools they need to assess the accuracy of information they consume online.

Underlying MediaWise is Stanford research showing that even though they spend much of the day online, the majority of teenagers are unable to evaluate the credibility of online information. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when most of the students raised their hands when we asked whether they had ever been fooled by a piece of online content.

Yet their questions and comments made it clear that they don’t want to be fooled again. They were eager to learn. That’s a good sign for the future of our community — and our country.

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Last week, the editorial board met with community members at Brooke Road United Methodist Church on Rockford’s south side at the invitation of the church’s pastor, Violet Johnicker.

It was a small, but deeply engaged, group whose chief concerns seemed to be blight and crumbling sidewalks.

“The city has allowed Church School to sit vacant for years,” one participant said. “But they’re really firm on Essex Wire. It seems like we are ignored.”

One participant mentioned recent coverage of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s campaign promoting Rockford as a place to live and do business, then added, “How are we going to do that with blight?”

Sidewalks are a bone of contention, too.

“Sidewalks are irregular or nonexistent,” one person told us. “There’s no accessibility for wheelchairs.”

Another said: “The sidewalks are in such poor condition that people walk in the streets.”

We asked the participants whether they had a message for City Hall. The answer:

“The city needs to be aware that we need help. We are about our neighborhood. We have concerns and want them addressed.

“If we make our neighborhood better, we make the whole city better.”

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We always learn something from these encounters that we didn’t know going in, whether it’s the intense hunger of students for credible information or the real-life concerns of residents who want to be able to walk safely around the neighborhood. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to your neighborhood association, church group, PTO or service club, too.

Mark Baldwin is executive editor of the Rockford Register Star.