Table of Contents

Friday 10:30
How might we really listen to communities? Andrew Haeg
What does engagement mean? What do we mean by engagement? Ashley Alvarado, Amber Rivera
How do we develop citizen journalists? Carrie Watters, Steph Routh
When journalism is engaging a community conversation, what does it look like? How does it differ from traditional reporting? Lee van der Voo
Friday 1:00
What is objectivity in journalism? Nathan Stevens
Ways to set up news operation who’s structure makes engagement easy and safe? How can we create feedback loops that our work is sustaining all of our communities? Understanding the dynamics around local journalism and engagement Tom Glaisyer, Michelle Ferrier, Tom Stites
Ways journalists can connect to others Jerry Millhon
How can media do well by doing good? For Media Orgs with limited resources what makes engagement strategic Susan Gleason, Linda Miller
Friday 2:30
Building empathetic narratives around real/embodied/virtual spaces? Michelle Ferrier, Anne Stadler, Dan Archer
Is there a structural bias built into how we define journalism that prevents rich engagement w communities of color? In what ways can we resist engagement that reinforces media of diverse communities as monoliths? Jo Ellen Kaiser, Elaine Cha
What is newsworthy? Who determined it? How? Pros and cons of process? Mike Green
How do we convince skeptics that engagement is worthwhile and scale up across a newsroom/organization? What are concrete ways that authentic engagement can add capacity to newsrooms? Caitlin Moran, Fiona Morgan
How can the tools and practice of journalism help further movements for justice and dignity? Sarah Loose
Friday plenaries
Friday afternoon: 35 – What’s a key idea that guides your engagement work?
About 35
Friday evening community Conversation
Saturday 9:30
How might we better teach engagement in universities and high schools? Samantha Shotzbarger, Margaret Staniforth, Elaine Cha
How do we honor different spheres of engagement and build stronger bridges to move people between spheres? How do we move out audience from intention to action? Melia Tichenor, Celeste Hamilton Dennis
When would you pay for the news? Would an engaged community financially support journalism and why? Meghan Farnsworth
How can JTm support those who are birthing the emerging ecosystem? Michelle Ferrier
Saturday 10:45
How do we map and use conversations for rich and honest engagement? Sydette Harry
Creative ways to structure live and online public forums and conversations that combine art, data, facts, storytelling, and hospitality? jesikah maria ross
Outlining the How-To Field Guide: What’s in it? Who’s it for? Elissa Adair
Tool for Engagement – Conversation about the Field Guide
How might we build a digital platform that supports our communities of practice? Andrew DeVigal
What are measures for engagement? What are feedback loops for important community perspectives and values? John Spady
Developmental Evaluation: Inquiring into what the questions tell us Chris Corrigan, Yve Susskind
Saturday afternoon: Cheeks in chairs – what are we learning?
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How might we build a digital platform that supports our communities of practice?

Attendees: Andrew, Rachel, Sean, Joy, Ben, Sheetal, Steph, Burgess, Jo Ellen

» Andrew – Framing:

I built a website Interactive Narratives to record all the data and stories I had gathered and kept losing w/upgrades over time. This was pre-Delicious. Let’s rebuild with ONA funding, to allow anyone to contribute to this ecosystem. Once I opened it up for the public to participate, the quality went down — self-promotion. People doing real work didn’t have time to contribute to it. It wasn’t just inspirational work that was needed, but it was about what are the components that you need.

People really wanted the how-to’s in creating multimedia work. There were many silos of people doing this work in newsrooms, and people needed to learn from each other. When I left the NYT the ended up disbanding the multimedia group – I integrated digital storytelling into the whole newsroom. I think that is what is happening now with engagement. So we need to master the craft and also learn the tools with the aspiration that we may one day no longer be needed.

How can we develop a field guide that is extremely participatory, useful, connects individuals:

  • Avoid guiding principles today

What are we trying to get done in our work:

  • what are our gains
  • what are our pains
  • functional, social, and emotional intent

» Joy: participatory journalism,
» Ben: journalism, Agora center and freelance
» Steph: startup and non-profit
» Shirley: Journalism student, focused in multi-media
» Sean: professional photography, what does it look like when people come together
» Andrew H:technologist, groundsource, public insight network . “What does mastery mean in this space” – identifying skills and scaffolding necessary to build mastery. My craft is building a technology platform, building “listening posts” in cities — trying to map the community, who do you partner with, how do you build trust, how do you map out the voice and not be anthropologists observing from a distance– how do you reflect back to communities in a way that feels organic. A lot of partnership building, and asking what questions does this community want to answer?

Mapping demand from journalists.
As we build the technology part of it is to cluster around the community needs so that we can contextualize journalism.

» Joy: My task is to be relevant and useful. It may be live-blogging, or showing up just to listen. It depends on the goals

Making the purpose behind something clear: identifying the strategy and goals is important (FUNCTIONALITY NOTE)
The field guide: should be useful to you no matter where you are coming from?

» Peggy: DE – Options by context — here are the conditions I am facing,
» Andrew: Connecting to Marla’s idea this morning –
» Joy: People can vote, sort, and creators of the guide can identify levels.
» Sean: The type of content you decide to put on is important. The community should be inspired by seeing what others are doing – if they can do it, why can’t i? — this is based on his work w/photography and video. Having real-life inspirational pieces included in the FG (CONTENT)
» Shirley: How do I appeal to multiple audiences? Who am I shooting this for? How can I reach out beyond the obvious audience? I have to think it out and

Who is the target audience for the FG?
should it be strictly journalists? civic engagement practitioners? only community engagement

» Ben: 2 levels – news institutions versus individual journalists — how to integrate into newsroom org strategy as well as make it useful for a freelancer
» Joy: I think its broader — non-profit/brands/documentary film makers. I think we can use journalism language but acknowledging that this has wider use and inviting wider use
» Jo Ellen: I think that some non-profit jobs and brands do better job at engaging that j’s do so we have a learn from here.

(RESOURCES Q): don’t know how much funding there is to support it but it’d be great to use case studies on what are brands and ads doing with this work and understanding the differences — people with dollars behind it what can we learn from there?

» Joy: Engagement w/in journalism levels up different.

What keeps you from doing what you want to do:

  • Undesired cost values, negative emotions,

» Andrew H: Negativity and ambiguity about what this is — in newsrooms its considered ancillary. The lack of valuing the expertise required to do this work makes it hard to feel like the work is valuable. I think mapping etc. isn’t hard, you just have to do it. But then finding the space w/in your work or a newsroom to prioritize this work. Now can you make sure you distribute this? I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for 12 years — people get worried about me coming in the room and asking them to do the thing that isn’t news.
» Andrew D: Diversity of perspectives accounted for in the engagement work. ESpecially from a resource perspective. Budget lines don’t account for inviting others into the conversation. Prioritization and lack of information
» Joy: Pain point of organizational culture. We feel overqualified for the job for engagement work, and they were called upon as 22 year olds to teach engagement to the newsroom. How do you talk to an editor 20 years older and tell them you need to engage in the following ways.
» Steph: Developing a shared understanding and investing a time up front to create that common language
» Peggy: It’s a lonely job when you’re doing it — are there enough out there to connect and learn from?
» Jo Ellen: I was talking to ProPublica — they start w/engagement and initiate stories and they start crowdsourcing and then get the story. They just got $2 million dollars to do this work and he’s adding a team. Most other folks I know barely have 1 person on staff. You can’t crowdfund for the engagement person — they will pay for the story not for the infrastructure around the story. (RESOURCES ). Many engagement folks become the editor.
» Andrew: You are becoming a master in audience acquisition
» Joy: When you have to explain ROI — where are we putting our resources and who in the newsroom is dedicated to growth and reach.
» Peggy: Is there room for an engagement bureau?
» Joy: Coaching may be useful instead — talk to me about some strategies, engagement strategist on demand
» Joy: Time. When do I have time — how do i jump in a comment thread? I can’t write a fb post — I need to do the work.
» Elaine: “This is not my job.” Lot of resistance to reporters who were putting together audio stories and putting together something different on the web. Resistance to doing more than a transcript. That’s not what I signed up, trained for, etc. They aren’t giving me money to do additional stuff.
» Jo Ellen: Business Model shift — lots of folks on subscription models. We are now engaging communities that is moving to a membership model. We moved from transactional to interactional relationship.
» Andrew: Kramer looked at new models in Public Media. Why is there a distinction between the different models. There seems to be convergence and lessons for all.


» Andrew: the positive aspects and benefits about what we love to do; outcomes and benefits that are expected, desired, and can be surprised by— social gains, positive emotions, cost saving
» Steph: We work on convening community to see how tech can be used for social change. Our communities onlnie are forums, and you have IT directors that are alone in their orgs to get people to invest in technology. So they have a place to talk to others in those silos and can share best practices. We have 1 annual in-person conference.

Is it about connecting people or a repository. Social network begets the resources and vice versa. Social first and then resource.

The vehicle is connection/social networking. The desire to help others.

» Joy: W/in journalism community engagers are more willing to share.
» Joy: My job is to be relevant and useful — showing here is what I did, but also showing why and how its useful. See the IMPACT AND EVALUATION. Creating a feedback loop where we can hear from communities and ourselves about that.
» Ben: Can we show meso-level impact? We often s
» Jo Ellen: THE MEDIA CONSORTIUM. Are there sentiment changes on twitter as a result — we have a theory that collab amongst niche orgs will increase impact. We have a variety of topics that we are covering. So we’ve been doing up 40 instances that are randomized and then seeing how the sentiment is changing.
Stories, hashtags, and URL’s and websites. The sentiment is then evaluated. Next step will be to develop a tool if we see positive changes.
» Andrew: We see increased trust and loyalty in the community. Developing that through conversation and engagement. It was what beat reporters did. JTM working with Tribune on Voices that Matter project that uncovers story they may not have otherwise heard and also building trust.
» Jo Ellen: Developing a process of engagement — help white staff/white audience to reach out to community of color. Breakdown some of the rigid ruts in newroom culture. We change how we talk to those groups we increase our reach to more diverse audiences.

Value Proposition Canvas — Business Model Framework
— this is the discovery process
— how do we then build a product that addresses the P, G, and Jobs — who are our customers, audience, (this product is for us), and help identify the pains and gains of that customer base.

Andrew –
Practical Question: we don’t want to build anything from scratch
Is there an existing platform that already does this? is it flexible enough to address and customize our needs?
We have some support from Knight Foundation but need more

Does this already exist in our community?

  • EcoTrust president left to start her own company: Resiliency Exchange — look at non-profits and global efforts. Solutions github orientation. Supported by Rockefeller.
  • Can the tool be something that we can then flip and add to our own websites?
  • Loomio is a deliberative platform to consider.
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“Ways to set up a news operation whose structure makes engagement easy and safe”

Sessions Hosts: Tom Glaisyer, Michelle Ferrier, Tom Stites

Clair Lorell (reporter)
Miro Merrill
Samantha Shotzbarger
Vanessa Vancour
Amala Alarcon Morris
Michal Wilde
Elissa Adair
Jana Thrift
Mike Fancher
John Spady
Talia Stroud

Tom Glaisyer
Democracy Fund Informed Participation Systems Map
What we care about in this session: feedback loops, structures and total community engagement:
Internet adoption and evolution led to user-generated and shared content which led to a wider range of available media perspective, which led to increased quality and quantity
The other story: this range of available media perspective led to a shift and diversification in audience attention, which led to lower economic stability for outlets. This is because the shift in audience attention led to a restructuring of advertising pricing and drop in local advertising revenue. Also contributing to decline in economic stability of local and state media is megasite growth. This leads to a decrease in quantity, quality, and relevance of local and state journalism.
Two other things going on outside of this: loop of disruption and loop of adaptation
As economic stability for locals is declining, the ability to connect with the community and audience declines, which leads to a decrease in diversity of sources, stories and staff, a fall in quantity and quality, leading to a shift in audience attention, leading to a negative impact on the economic health of the community. You now have a newsroom now unable to engage with and inform their communities.
Community perspective: as diversity of sources stories and staff falls, the quality falls, engagement with the public falls, and therefore the role of the newsroom community connection declines. *Engagement may be a way to reverse the economics at play*
*OR*: is it the disintermediation of topics leading to the shift in audience attention – and not the decline of resources and therefore quality reporting. I.e., people don’t have to go to a local outlet to find the news they want (like sports). Does that mean that we need to care about creating platforms that cater to specific topics instead of for specific outlets? (-jo ellen)
Tom Stites: decline in readership in newspapers and tv news viewership was in decline before the cliff. Secular phenomenon that may have been separate from decline in quality resulting from attention shift/diversification
Sydette: the engagement of art and music and artistic critique as a way of creating relationships between subjects, could lessons be learned in policy news for locals?
Carol: focusing not just on the network, but the fabric. making connections between existing networks
Should we be separating event reporting from issue reporting that involves follow-up? Is there enough focus on issue reporting?
Engagement hadn’t previously been a function of economic vitality; but engagement is now a survival reflex.

Michelle Ferrier
Discussing media deserts and the maps to make visible this system
There ar some communities who have never had fresh access to immediate information – how do we create entrepreneurship in this situations?
Map shows a concentration of news media serving the most highly populated areas on the coasts, particularly east coast.
Can we use mapping and feedback loops to understand not only the losses to journalism (jobs, advertising, etc) but what has been the impact on the actual communities? What communities are suffering because of media deserts and this evolution/pattern?
Important to understand at the deep level which communities have always had access and which have always lacked in order to best approach the current landscape
The majority of our country has less than 25% market penetration of local news into their communities (i.e., 25% is engaging through some type of model or subscription)
Change map: shows 120+ newspapers that have died
New jersey map: hyperlocal, patch, and newspapers. Significant overlap with independents in those communities
Using this data to tell a better story at the local level to try and lead to better policy decisions, etc. attempting to develop a report card based on the proportion of zip codes trending towards media deserts, etc.
How can we truly think about what we’re doing as engagement when there have always been underserved communities who’ve lacked access, and not targeted for any engagement by media. This fact disenfranchises communities, and we want to make this visible so that people are aware and active to combat that disenfranchisement and lack of access to fresh, quality relevant information.
Feedback loops: use questions about consumption that help us better serve the community
Future maps will look at income, ethnicity, and education level – often indicators of news deserts, which contributes to the lack of improvement of things like income and education levels, maintaining disempowered communities.
How can we build mechanisms that might help news organizations know their affect, expand their vision, and improve their overall work ?

Tom Stites
Discussing Banyan Project
The goal can no longer be to have every household subscribing to the newspaper because they only serve a certain segment of the population based on advertising needs and structures. There is no enduring change without structural change. we’ve tried to find new models for the sake of democracy, built off of old models, and there are few spots of true success. The decline of existing media is quicker than the growth of new models. So how do we take all of this into account, and where does engagement fit? How do we make the most of digital possibilities to make news better than its ever been? The only change that matters is structural change.
Banyan: aims to strengthen democracy with a replicable model for Web journalism: creating independent news co-ops in underserved communities.
If advertising has always shaped journalism and led to a focus on a specific segment of the population, what can we do to get it back to the goal of 100% market penetration and include as many people as you can? How could we fix accountability problems?
The convergence of values and interests, historically, morphed into large corporate ownership, leading to a decline in accountability to the community. LA Times publisher editor firing perfect example. Even when newsrooms recognize value of engagement, business often won’t allow it.
Creating a true 4th estate: cooperative ownership of news organizations owned the community they’re working with: circulation penetration height was 80%, they’re hoping for 20%.
Cooperative idea is engagement at the deepest level – monetizing engagement and the ability to be part of the conversation. Gatekeeper is now answering to readers instead of advertisers, because readers are owners.
Michelle – what about poor residents who can’t afford to buy in? Doesn’t it create the same problem?
Tom: There are scholarships and financial structures in place to combat this problem
Content creation: small professional staff, freelancers, and community correspondence. proactively seek out a neighborhood correspondent, crowdsourcing, question of the week, engagement forms i.e. using comments to create a story
Michelle: are we tackling the problem of the fact that in media deserts, it does come down to time, money and privilege to engage in this?
Participant Brainstorms:
Establishing/fostering connection to news at very young ages in schools. Do we need to be approaching this from an education/media literacy standpoint? How do we build those consumption habits and connection to journalism from a young age? Newzilla – makes news digestible for different age levels
Do we need a tax system that support journalism that is based not only on an advertising model but is approached like a utility? Would that ever get traction with the general public?
Should there be a subscription model that is also more like a utility (but optional) that provides blanket access to certain content not specific to certain outlets?

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Measuring “Polarization and Consensus” Within Community Engagement

Host: John Spady, Seattle, Founder of the National Dialogue Network (, Twitter: @JSpady; Facebook: /JSpady

Participants: Amber Rivera, Bruce Poinsette, Miro Merrill, Rachel Damgen, Kathryn Langstaff

Notes (limited):
1) Capturing routine feedback of participant values and opinions during broad scale community engagement provides unexpected and significant insights into what participants have in common and which demographic/psychographic groups of participant were more or less likely to engage and participate.

2) Feedback from participants after face-to-face and online engagement, and its unbiased analysis afterwards, improves understanding of the effectiveness of engagement, and engagement strategies, within diverse communities.

Infographic describing proprietary PC-Rating™:
Keywords: consensus, engagement, metrics, measures, surveys, opinions, values

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Objectivity in Journalism

What is objectivity in journalism? What does it do?

Host: Nate Stevens

As practiced:
—Gives credence to people who deny facts or assert factual inaccuracies

—Generates distrust in media

What should it be?

—“I want to change the world” is not objective

—Does wanting to have impact make you not objective?

— Fairness and accuracy are the standards

—Objectivity is a product of historical market forces

Who’s in the newsroom affects what is considered objective

—“Objectivity” as concept that reinforces white supremacy-African American journalists have challenged that

— Selections of the facts – framing– context are subjective choices that have major impact

— “”Black reporters cannot be objective about black lives matter”

— Straight CIS white dudes have not lived lives of others– Are not neutral

What can objectivity mean? What should it mean?


Stenography of bullshit

Middle of the road

Two sides to the issue

In reality clouded by subjectivity

A baseball bat for control especially among political partisans


Fact checking


The Universal process to vet stories

Find out the facts of what happened to inform community response

Multiple sources

Pay attention to words and their meaning to other people

Example issue: undocumented immigration

Fact: undocumented immigration generates a net economic benefit

Part of the story is the ”build a wall people”– but giving them equal coverage creates false equivalency >> Proportionality

Representation of community

Representation of people by issue

Diversity of perspectives– opinions– the experiences

Editor as well as reporters

Spanish language programming– Spanish-speaking reporters—“Complicate the issue”

Participatory media project requires safety, time but who is the audience?

System at hand: the newsroom >> goals and strategies

Who is our audience now?

Who do we speak to?

What do we want to present to them?

“Mission to enlighten an advanced conversation”– huh?

Impact is not objectivity

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How can media do well by doing good? What makes engagement strategic?

Combined Session:

  1. How can media do well by doing good — build trust, loyalty, and the bottom line?
  2. For media organizations with limited resources, what makes engagement strategic?

– measurable results?

– scalable?

– what works, has worked for you?

Session Hosts: Linda Miller (APM/Public Interest Network), Susan Gleason (YES! Magazine)


  • Susan Gleason
  • Linda Miller
  • Jeff Brown
  • Sean O’Connor
  • Cylvia Hayes
  • Sami Edge
  • Steph Routh
  • Margaret Staniforth
  • Jana Thrift
  • Rachel Damgen
  • Thomas Schmidt
  • Caitlin Moran
  • Bill Buzenberg
  • jesikah maria ross
  • Carrie Watters
  • Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn
  • Terry Parris Jr.
  • Jo Ellen Kaiser
  • Joy Mayer
  • Amber Rivera

American Public Media (APM) is focused on:

  • Indispensible content
  • loyal audiences
  • engagement and community impact
  • inclusion/cultural competence
  • financial flexibility

What can we learn from the social enterprise / social good sector?

Why aren’t we thinking about the good we’re doing in our community — and how that’s fundable, and/or good for investments?

YES! Magazine has recently visited its mission, values, and theory of change, and out of that, has elevated ‘engagement’ to one of the three pillars of its work. Our core work is reporting, analysis, and engagement. We’ve prioritized a variety of engagement avenues and strategies over the years, but without a larger, more intentional plan to guide our efforts.

Anything we do at YES! gets evaluated against our money (sustainability) and mission (supporting social change) goals. So, wondering how to evaluate engagement tools, processes, and opportunities, in the face of limited nonprofit resources.

Can we create a social enterprise business model for journalism, that is a hybrid of the loyalty/membership model and underwriting from socially responsible businesses and the people who support them?

Is there a ‘there’ there?

Fourth Estate: mission driven, public benefit, for-profit organization.

We believe in “the business” of journalism.

We ask, “How do we incubate the news business?”

We’ve launched 3 journalism startups. We have a venture fund, plus investors club.

American Public Media: membership model

YES! Magazine: funded by 1) subscriptions, 2) grassroots donors (3500 monthly sustaining donors), and 3) large donations/grants

What does it mean to ‘do good’? What does it mean to do “socially responsible” journalism?



Doesn’t fall into the trap of false equivalency

Considers the harm and weighs it against the public interest

Often leads straight to the “advocacy journalism” argument and fears of losing impartiality

Not talking about prescribing solutions

But getting a grant to cover hunger — for example — and showing possible solutions, does mean resources aren’t spent covering other things. That isn’t advocacy in traditional sense but it is agenda-setting, mission-driven.

What did well, clicks-wise? — this organizational priority is a rough, often unwelcome, driver and repeated drumbeat, for journalists in the newsroom

The Missourian: Example of a socially responsible newsroom. For instance, we’re not going to do crime coverage without context

Media as public service / we have a public good mandate

Journalism in the public interest

We’ve had this model, where we the media are: “The best information brokers”


We do have a newsroom of experts …. e.g., on Medicare, on the NSA

We have a number of tent pole investigations with deep expertise.

Our journalists know where the stories are, how to collect and synthesize data.

We use crowd-sourcing and engagement to gather stories …

e.g., we’re working on an investigation about Agent Orange exposure

Sometimes engagement starts before the story … with the Agent Orange story we collected 3200 stories from vets.

We always start with evidence!

How we approach investigations at ProPublica:

– first: how can our Engagement Team help start the investigative process?

– then, there’s still a long way to go: taking the data, taking the people stories we’ve gathered, and applying data visualization, applying machine learning to it to gain something more out of it

Newsroom Identity — who they are, and who they’re accountable to

Metrics — how do they feed back in?

At ProPublica we ask: What worked, what fell flat? We look at metrics (ChartBeat, etc) constantly. We have a lot of resources, space, and opportunity. Are we discovering an ROI (for engagement) that is/can be applicable to other organizations? Those 3200 Agent Orange contacts — we can email them directly, which can contribute to the end-result story having a higher impact. Deep audience engagement …. translating that into something we can measure.

Is a next step in engagement: helping readers/listeners talk to each other?

We never look at our audience as one audience.

Creating loyalty with trust, quality is crucial. Engagement is key factor in all three.

Is your newsroom invested in distribution? Giving users opportunities to add, to build on, a story or beat of particular interest? (e.g., call-to-action buttons on stories?)

APM evaluates impact by asking: “Did this change the way you think about an issue? Did this change your conversations/relationships? Did this story/event inspire you to take action?”

Part of social enterprise model is asking people to support what’s important to them. Test hypothesis that people who are impacted by your coverage are likely to want to help support your coverage.

We could be asking our audiences: “If this is of value to you, are you willing to support it?”

The value of VOX explainers.

“How much energy do you use?” – explainer that did really well

How do we know that people don’t want solutions-oriented journalism if we haven’t really provided it?

People have a big, diverse, appetite for media. They want their meat, their potatoes … and their Doritos and donuts.

Model D Media – Telling a different narrative out of Detroit. Solution stories.


We have pockets of collaboration … but as an industry, we don’t tell our story well.

How can we be relevant to different/multiple stakeholders in the community (public)?

How can we be in, part of, the solutions process (as community forum, etc)?

How can we build trust?

The kind of journalism that helps the healthy growth of the community.

Clay Shirky: We’re in the midst of a revolution — the old model is broken before we know what will replace it. Also known as area of pardox

Public media / commercial media partnerships? Questions? Concerns? Co-opted?

Partnering is happening a lot these days.

How will local newspapers survive if they’re always grouped in “the media” (and all the baggage that holds for how people feel about the media)?

“It speaks to me. It might die without me” = Loyalty

Fourth Estate is a venture fund.

In social enterprise model, people invest in businesses that help them become good citizens

Trust is key, and part of cultivating trust is refusing to give bad actors access to your platforms

Challenges: Hard for people to believe the corporate media does not have an agenda

Starbucks just launched social impact media company. Also, TakePart. The idea of socially responsible media is already taking shape.

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Spheres of Engagement/Moving the Audience to Action


  • Advocacy journalism (i.e. Jana, who is a videographer for the tiny house movement)
  • Activism
  • Public service’ (i.e. volunteering)
  • Decision making
  • Stakeholder gatherings/events
  • Provoking emotion/thought through words, art
  • Online spaces
  • Connectors
  • Informal community engagement





Spheres2Fiona/Jerry: There’s power to the everyday, informal engagement: PTA meeting, soccer field, etc. Is engagement what we’re doing right now in this circle?

Marissa: I work as a city planner. We always hear from folks about a topic, and pass that to policy makers. Our goal is always engagement. We have kiosks that are a visual representation of what the city is working on. (Marla: Those are not very cost effective. Something like $25,000 per kiosk.)

Fiona: The PTA doesn’t look like the school, which is diverse. Parents are working, have multiple jobs. Transportation and time are the problem. Take it to them at the laundromat. Spaces like that.

Marissa – We try to go where people are at: childcare spaces, churches, farmers markets, parks, DMV.

Fiona: Online people can respond immediately to what just read. We need to make the connections. We need to find new ways to get some traction. But how do that in a way that preserves our role?

Carrie – Look for solutions. We did a story about the foster care systems and it saw a surge of new parents because of a success story. If publish a piece it doesn’t have to be the end of it. Balance and sustainability.

Marla – Need to give people choices, tradeoffs. Engage people in a deliberate process.

Jerry – Wildflower Foundation in San Francisco looks for the informal leaders in pockets of communities i.e. barbers. That’s where the action is happening. Seeing one action happening in a community is easier to swallow.

Jesikah – Even in areas where there are limited choices each person should be able to come up with their choice about whether to act or not. Need to be careful about providing ways forward but still respecting their right to decide. Need to think about the public framing for encouraging people to make those choices, get the value out.

Fiona – Solutions journalism…how to navigate the system, the process, how to ask questions.

Celeste – Because I interview social entrepreneurs, changemakers, etc. about what they’re doing and how and they’re challenges, I’m always making connections between them. This women over here is having trouble with X so I connect her with this other women over there who just worked through that problem. It feels weird to withhold that information.

Marla – I did that. I connected the governor and a candidate because they both had a passion for education and I thought it’d be an interesting interview with both. For better or worse No Child Left Behind came out of that. Connectors in the community is an engagement sphere in and of itself.

Jesikah – The #1 impact we’ve seen of our projects is that different groups who didn’t know each other started working together across projects. And that really made the case for funding these engagement initiatives.

Fiona – Example?

Jesikah – We did a project revolving around hunger in Sacramento. We had monthly meetings, advisory group, stakeholder convenings with these groups and became sort of a hub. Twelve people who didn’t know each other worked together over a year and now do. I identify as a community organizer even though I wouldn’t necessarily say that where I work. Social justice and advocacy often overlap but don’t have to. We need new ways of bringing the newsroom and people together to tell accurate, nuanced stories. Maybe there’s a whole world full of community organization we can turn to and learn from. But there’s a certain comfort level to break through. It’s not appropriate for a public media org to take a position or try to move people to policy to change action.

Fiona – You can’t give your opinion. You need to stay out of the convo at a certain level but you can facilitate conversation in a way. People have to trust you, you can’t show favoritism. There’s a certain comfort level as a journalist you’re playing with.

Marissa – You need to be representatives of the process and not the outcome.

Marla – Find a topic where there’s a consensus for the common good. Everyone wants to increase the high school graduation rate. The T.V. and radio stations formed an alliance for coverage because it was something everyone agrees on as a good idea.

Spheres3Jesikah – People in the newsroom would say – we listened to the people, it’s a top priority, we have a responsibility to inform our public.

Fiona – You’re deeming what’s important in the decision

of what you don’t cover.

Carrie – You don’t have to advocate for a specific method or solution, just show what’s out there.

Marissa – Tree Code. Everyone has emotional rxn to trees. Everyone agreed sh*t wasn’t working. Can start from place of agreement. Our stakeholder groups were polarized but they had more in common than they thought.

Jerry – How then to get people to think of the common purpose? That can be fairly neutral.

Tim – Paradox of actually having to follow the “no” so you can uncover the “yes.” People often have less differences than they perceive. Go in detail to explore the “no” and what in particular it stands for.

Marla – Opposite of appreciative inquiry

Marissa – We’d do a quick vote at our stakeholder meetings. Red card, yellow card, green card. People check in to see where they’re at. Ask what would help them go from red to yellow.

Fiona – Why don’t we think of ourselves as community organizers?

Marla – If you make a choice to do that as a journalist, you need to make that clear from the beginning.

Spheres4Jesikah – Make clear what your values are about. If you get pushback in the newsroom it could be helpful to do a 5 Why’s Exercise. It’s a good way to uncover what people’s values, mission, and passion are. Why are you doing this? Etc. It’s a way to find the common good. Might find you have the same values as someone you work with but didn’t know it.

Tim – You’d also find their fear and vulnerabilities

Marla – My sister works in theatre and a lot with the body. She’s says, “Before you engage with others, you need to engage with yourself.”

Jana – Found music really works with Alzheimer’s patients.

Fiona – Journalists don’t want framing clichés. Agreement is the starting point. Allow journalists to recognize what’s interesting to them, what are the commonalities. But if they’ve already decided what the story is going to be they’re not going to be open.

Jerry – Find the deeper purpose.

Marla – Let’s give space to people working through issues, ambivalence. We don’t have to be clear. Maybe ask, What aren’t you sure of? What are you struggling with?

Carrie – Give readers very specific methods, information to get to a solution

Fiona – I’d like to know what reader’s questions are. Give them a space to ask questions. Maybe at the bottom of the story – What questions do you have for the reporter/in general about this issue? Reporter could get involved in the comments section. Those explaining pieces are really popular.

Tim – Questions can be used to steer

Marissa – We use librarians for research a lot because they’re neutral.

Marla – ALA and Harvard are working on a project to meaningful engage communities and connect them to the library

Fiona – Libraries help you navigate information. Reporters need to be more like a community organizer/librarian to archive, hold knowledge in a way where people can really access it.

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What is Newsworthy?

Host: Mike Green

Overarching outcome of session (consensus among participants): The people that newsrooms aim to serve should be involved in the process of deciding what is newsworthy.

Synopsis: The group believed that too often storytelling and the framing of issues and what constituted “news” was pre-determined by newsrooms and that wasn’t a healthy approach. They asked a variety of questions regarding how newsroom narratives that frame issues around controversy, the rush to post stories first, and digital cash-for-clicks business models impacted the health of the communities they serve. The conversation initially centered around a frustrated community that perceived all media as a monolithic entity separate from the community, which produced a stream of sensationalism versus covering real issues with context and sensitivity to the impact those stories would have on real people. The lens through which communities often view media was described as “Apocalypse Fatigue.”

The conversation evolved toward changing the newsroom model that determined what is newsworthy. Questions regarding newsroom capacity and a need for speed suggested some stories lacked the quality they otherwise might have due to the pressures upon the newsroom itself. Reporters too often gravitate toward ease of story discovery and controversy, which undermines the integrity of newsrooms to engage and cover the community with an honest concern and sensitivity around the impact of issues and narratives.

The group concluded that newsrooms should see themselves as a part of the community, which could be defined as a group of people with shared experiences; people with whom we have relationships and to whom we feel accountable. The group felt that media literacy through the training of communities to engage proactively with newsrooms in a healthy manner is important. Communities could be invited to assist in finding errors and actively submit stories and issues important to them through a recognized and easy process to which the newsroom is responsive.

Q: How can journalists incorporate a balance of controversy vs community-based solutions? Can journalists be more proactive vs only reactive?

The group suggested when newsrooms are determining what is newsworthy they should ask:

  • Why does this matter?
  • Can newsworthy items contain more than hard news?
  • What makes the community feel proud?
  • Is there a balance between advocacy journalism and hard news?
  • Is advocacy and community engagement “real” news?
  • Do the tone and tenor of the words reflect the attitudes of community members?
  • What is our “community”?


Is a monolithic media perception healthy?

Click for cash model has changed media’s relationship with the community

Community is frustrated with sensationalism and that media often miss real issues

Current business model and focus on speed undermines integrity

Lack of newsroom capacity impacts quality of stories

Reporters gravitate toward ease of discovery and controversy

How can journalists incorporate a balance of context and relevant information that is newsworthy

Journalists key on community controversy when listening to conversations

Need balance between ease of access to controversy vs community-based solutions

Community has apocalypse fatigue

Social media provides space for community conversation

When determining what is newsworthy, ask why does this matter?

Too often institutionalized thinking vs community input informs the narrative

Multiple stories on an issue can emerge from community conversations and journalist curiosity

Audiences form around affinity issues

Community – a group of people with shared experiences; people to whom we feel accountable, have relationships with

Storytelling too often pre-determined by newsrooms

Framing issues through the lens of who to quote or cover

What should newsrooms do when communities respond with backlash?

Newsrooms begrudgingly respond to error; should make catching errors a community activity

Media Literacy: How do we train communities to engage newsrooms with prospective news stories?

Reporters lens: what is new, timely, unique?

How does systemic bias play out in newsrooms?

Are we pigeonholing community members by race, gender, etc?

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Building empathetic narratives around real/embodied/virtual spaces

Session Hosts: Michelle Bach-Coulibaly, Dan Archer, Anne Stadler
Reporter: Anne Stadler

Amber Rinera
Jim Cynqler
Amalia Alarcón Morris
Marla Choukett
Vanessa Vancour
Mitch Fantin
Samantha Shotzbarger
Kathryn Langstaff
Jerry Millhon
Margaret Stanitan
Sean O’Connor
Sheetal Agorwal
Marissa Grass
Thomas Schmidt
Michelle Bach

We started in a large circle with each host offering her/his suggestion re what we focus on:
MIchelle: I want to offer authentic embodied experience expressing what’s going on inside of us, no editing, open hearted, listening.
Dan: Hope that we’ll offer practical tools that help people enter a space they might not normally be.
Anne: I suggest we cultivate a spirit of Yes, appreciate what everyone offers. Play and open space for unknown to emerge.

Michelle invited everyone to introduce themselves via a Call and Response process. We stood in a circle. Each of us in turn called out our full name. The circle responded with shouting a response that reflected the persons’ offering. Each person did this four times, expressing all the moods he/she felt, then the Caller role moved to the next person.

What’s a story from the community that illustrates a real example of building empathic narrative?
Steve: In my community a tragedy occurred: a young girl was strangled accidently, A large community gathering came together over a meal: so that young people and olders could have a conversation and process that allowed the youth share their needs and feelings re what had happened. In the course of it, everyone benefitted from creating a collective narrative through empathic conversation.

People are comfortable and feel they “belong” when they break bread together (share a meal).
Elected officials (and others) respond to peoples’ needs when they’re telling their personal stories. Data is not enough to move people, they need the hook of personal stories.
Empathy is the most powerful tool for helping people connect to different ways of thinking & different perceptions. You are thinking & feeling simultaneously.
Inviting vulnerability is important. There are places such as Listening Posts, audio, and Smart Phone apps that invite intimacy and encourage vulnerability.
Pay attention to creating a safe space in which you invite the person to tell his/her story.

Q What is the emergent quality at play? When you are in a real environment, how do you remain in that vulnerable generative space?

Michelle offered a game to quickly invite empathic connection & communication:
Pick a partner (dyads) Each in turn, in two minutes, tell your partner the story of “What was a powerful experience that changed your life?” Then share that story with the whole circle by BEING the person (“Hello. I am Jim….etc) (That was hilarious in at least one instance when Dan “became” his partner, a woman, who told the story of giving birth to her baby and how it transformed her life.)

Jerry: How do you recreate the intimacy of the playing we did when you are sourcing for the story?
–let your heart lead your curiousity to learn the person’s experience
–Notice cues of intimacy
–your eyes are the camera
–feel the story coming up through your body (resonance?)
–feel the realization as if you were living it for the first time.
— show it physically via dramatic reconstruction in real space (a la Dan’s 3 D)

Playing allowed us to transcend our shyness and open space within ourselves.

How do we create the space where people go over the threshold of shyness?
Dan: In the virtual: Tell a personal story people can identify with. Set it in a real space. Then reveal the story(s) happening within that space. Show rather than tell.

Example of a video game that is empathic: That Dragon Cancer.

Key words describing the essentials (contributed by participants at end):
“I am because we are”
safe container
feeling someone’s story come up through your body
Connect with self/other/whole circle via opening space
empathic narratives are third person becoming first person
Connecting occurs from the heart and gut not the brain

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Community Conversation: Inclusive Competitiveness Post-it Note Clusters

“Listen to learn, not listen to tell | People, not projects/problems | Stories, not systems/symbols | Science (experiment, investigate, expand), not engineering (implement, apply, constrain) | Action (incremental, MVP, growth), not plans (top down, rigid, scale)”
“Don’t anticipate a story. Just listen.”
“Sharing stories with others (whether that’s by mouth, paper, online, art…) spreads awareness and change. LISTEN to the issues that communities are struggling with & LISTEN to the solutions they’ve also found. Sharing these stories can lead to different solutions that work for different people.”
“News organizations need to make the space for their journalists to really listen and reflect what they hear. And then they need to provide the information that the community really needs.”
“Journalists can set aside their agendas and listen to the people they interview. Tell the story that is already there, not the one they want to see.”
“Tell the story in front of you, and not the one that fits your narrative. Be true to the authenticity of the pieces, and remember, the conversation is just beginning when you hit ‘publish’.”

“Nothing about us without us”
“We are all together in the business of creating positive change. But we cannot do it effectively without INCLUDING each other.”
“Invite journalists into rich community gatherings, acknowledge the possibility of an ongoing relationship, develop trust – outcomes of the work, share and collaborate, sustain – let the work provide a seedbed for the future.”
“Recruit people FROM the communities you want to engage to work with you. Invite people IN and go OUT.”

“How communities and journalism can thrive together: Wide and easy access to robust and reliable journalism is a crucial component of civic health. Civic health strengthens local economies. Strong local economies support stronger journalism. It’s a regenerative loop.”
“Doggedly insist on answers to the question: How does public sector (gov’t & philanthropic) economic development investment inure to the benefit of ALL of the public?”

“How can communities and journalism thrive together? When people see their lived experiences reflected in the news, when people see answers to the questions they have about their communities in the news, when people see the value of journalism and share the values that drive the best journalism.”
“Don’t just tell the stories that CAN be told. Tell the stories that SHOULD be told.”
“We don’t know what others need, familiarity can often make us unaware of the power of things close to us.”
“Authentically pursue in telling and honoring the WHOLE story.”

“Empower the people/communities newsrooms cover to be involved in the process of determining what is important and newsworthy.”
“We will thrive together when journalists work as a place for community voices to be heard and shared, thereby creating a network of change wanted by most everyone.”

“We need to state our intentions publicly, get clear on our goals and dreams, and invite the community along for the journey.”
“Be intentional to promote diversity that is reflective of your community to ensure all have a voice – participate.”
“By building community (intentional space/opportunity to convene and exchange insight and ideas)”
“Be clear about what we value.”

“Appreciate the ways in which our success is linked. Work together, as if our lives depend on it. They do.”
“Communities everywhere are not level. There are those whose stories are constantly ignored or mistold. The best organizations are not the ones that abandon diversity, but lacking a disjointed power structure of advantaged and disadvantaged. As journalists we must help lift up the separated and marginalized until the community is level in its variety.”
“Respect the people and institutions on the outside – do not sanitize their experiences, but bring them in. End goal isn’t always a big change – but looking at each other.”
“Journalists inquire more from their communities about what’s happening – concerns, wants and problems – and write about them.”
“What would journalism look like if it was generated OUT of community rather than FOR community?”
“Building community from the bottom up | Sharing wisdom of place through messaging knowledge | Evoking story from within and communicating the “field” of communication within communities”
“Journalism should tap into insight of community/orgs, NOT BE comm/orgs. Do the journalism and amplify out”
“Always ask the Q: Act as though there were no boundaries. What would we accomplish together?”
“To thrive together, communities and journalists must DECIDE together. What is important?”

“Good stories emerge from authentic conversation with diverse groups of people.”
“Tell stories of optimism and victory with the same passion we bring to tragedy.”
“By highlighting not only the successes of our communities, but also the efforts of those who have not yet succeeded and who are actively engaged in creating solutions to the issues in our community. If we support them, we are all more likely to succeed together.”
“Stories can help communities see the path to achieve what they thought was impossible.”
“The importance of role modeling so that communities know what is possible.”
“Journalists need community members to enlighten them about pressing issues and needs AND ALSO potential solutions that are in progress. Proven success isn’t always the best story, sometimes simple promise is.”
“Use mentorship to show real change happens incrementally.”

“Be part of an ecosystem | Cultivate listening, learning and telling stories of what IS thriving. | Hold yourselves and others accountable for your public license to serve the community.”

“Communities and journalists can thrive through honest, authentic (though sometimes uncomfortable) conversation to creat work representational of PEOPLE not roles.”
“Create the time, space, platform, what have you that allows for people to get comfortable with the uncomfortable – the ideas and experiences they know nothing about.”
“Communities and journalism can thrive together when a journalist is both part of the community and willing to seek out the discomfort that comes with being a fair and accurate reporter.”

“Journalists need to develop/build relationships with people who live in the communities they write stories about – beyond just dealing with those in leadership roles. It is important for journalist to know the history of and experience of that community.”
“Find and collaborate in areas of mutual self interest.”
“Journalism becomes fully integrated into the greater whole community ecosystem, committed to developing thriving, regenerative community.”
“Don’t just invite communities to YOUR (media) table… get out and join their table, build relationships, share a meal, create trust. Inclusiveness is not just throwing your doors open and saying you have a safe space to engage.”
“Journalism can be an honest witness to communities as they learn how to thrive.”
“Businesses can make communities/democracy healthier by funding objective JOURNALISM in their area of interest. Journalists will need to lead.”
“Recognize we are all part of the same community and that we all are collaborators in sharing authentic stories that bring value and call us to develop as human beings.”

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