How might newsrooms/journalists have ongoing conversations and engagement with communities independent of story projects? What resources might be needed?

Question proposer: Subbu Vincent

Citations: Courtney Breese (NCDD), Linda Miller (APM), Michelle Levander (USC), Amy Wang (Oregonian), Jeremy Hay (Spaceship Media), Eva Perlman (Spaceship Media), Alicia Montgomery (WAMU 88.5), Jackie Hai (KJZZ), Linda Shaw (Seattle Times), Subbu Vincent (Trust Project, SCU)

(Courtney Breese took notes)

Recognising that even within news organisations there are people who are not reporting but who have capacities and opportunities to engage (other employees)

Movement towards this on the business side. Engagement which requires sustained conversation is a challenge to legacy media. Moving in that direction may require union conversations about appoprriateness
How do you define engagement in your org? May need to re-articulate
Challenge of staff buy-in. Some gravitate to this.
Amy Wang (Oregonian)
In some news orgs departments have been consolidated. Sales and marketing would say they engage, we even get stories from them. Working closely today with marketing. They want good relationships with the community. So they can be a partner in community engagement.
At Oregonian we did a reporting project called The Big Idea on state budget priorities. Marketing helped organise the event.

Cultural barriers and disruption. There is shift in seeing newsrooms’ role as convenor in the community versus just outreach to help identify stories. If you have limited capacity, you have to look at new ways to play your role.

It’s more a collaborative world now. Editors may not have attended community events before and now you should
There is appreciation from the community for showing up
Michelle Levander brought up Martin Reynolds’ example from the East Bay Times/Bay Area News Group from earlier. Reporters setup office hours in cafes as open engagement opportunities. Others have done similar things to bring events to the community
Creating a culture of engagement leads to new and innovative ways of connecting with the community
Reciprocity that happens between non-profits all the time can be used by newsrooms too
At KJZZ we had a uphill battle. News and development are on different planets.
There are silos within the news building itself. You don’t even know necessarily who everyone is.
Conversations are needed WITHIN newsrooms about these topics too
Early use of PIN (Linda Miller) – it was not just stories but we asked people what kept them up at night. Tools can be used to shift culture, create communities, connections. They are ways to create extensions of the newsroom.

Spaceship Media brings people in conflict together via Facebook group and inform them via journalism. Create stories about what arises in conversations. Conversation continues – they stay in touch, offer updates etc. They sometimes come back to the reporter. They are interesting to continuing to talk and learn. (Jeremy and Eve)

Engaging communities is going on different topics. Partnerships are key.
Who are the orgs/institutions to bring the right people into the room. A room of people that really represent the community.
E.g. health. A community health center can help.
At NCDD (National Council for Deliberation and Dialogue) we find public libraries are great places for conversation.
Libraries have their ears to the ground and are attuned.
(Courtney Breese, MD of NCDD, CA)

Newsrooms must (re)embrace role as convenors
Get staff training on how to host conversations
Partner with organisations and be flexible to their needs
Not everything should focus on content – think about role differently

What about online spaces? A lot of the conversation so far has been about physical interventions, events.
Seems like many of these efforts follow a similar nature. Intimate safe environment for citizens
There is a method to it, not just throwing people together.
There is an intentionality to the prompts and plans. It’s based on modelling good engagement, behaviour, etc.
(Jeremy – our dialogue fostering was done as a journalistic endeavour)

Conversation does not have to be ongoing between newsrooms and communities in the sense of everyday. It will ebb and flow. (Linda Miller)
Yes, I did not mean ‘ongoing’ in an everyday sense. I meant breaking engagement out of the ‘project’ silos. (Subbu)

On Resources

There is a desire to do this, but newsroom folks are not being given more time to do it.
It becomes an add-on and hard-sell.
Management buy in is critical.