How Do We Truly Listen To Communities?

Session Hosts: Andrew Haeg and Linda Miller
Reporter: Burgess Brown
Participants: (apologies for misspellings)
Marissa Gass
Nathan Stevens
Joy Mayer
Rachel LaChappelle
Sean O’Connor
Sami Edge
Tom Glasyer
Jim Cyngler
Laura Loforti
Stephen Silha
Jacki Hai
Sydette Harry
Michelle Ferrier
Amalia Alarcon Morris
Bill Bazenberg
Andrew Devigal
Jo Ellen Green Kaiser
Samantha Shotzbarger
Jerry Millhon
Tom Stites
Linda Miller
Mitch Fantin
Sarah Loose
Burgess Brown
Emmalee McDonald

Our session began with posing questions as we attempted to define what ‘listening’ looks like for journalists. Here are some that were asked throughout the session:

  • What are questions that you can ask that people who often aren’t heard WANT to answer vs. the question you want to ask?
  • How do you prepare to listen to a community that you don’t share a life experience with?
  • How are we listening in a way that allows us to interpret the structures around us in our community?
  • How do we repair the relationship that has been caused by journalism in marginalized communities?
  • Can journalists help community members listen to one another?
  • What if journalism is not the product- the product is conversation and journalism chronicles it?
  • What is the artifact we want to coalesce around in the future if we want engagement to be the product?
  • We have a lens that we listen through and can’t help but interpret and filter what we hear through our own experience. How do we know we got it right? How do we know we are interpreting correctly and accurately?
  • Within a community there are layers and layers of lived experience. How do we accurately represent the layers of a community and not as a monolith?
  • How do we turn journalism around and allow people to tell their own story and have that carry the same weight?
  • What’s the responsibility to understand your own privilege? You can’t understand the truth if you can’t understand your privilege.
  • The article is a structure created for expediency- what are the other structures we can create to better represent all voices? Lets look at structures that remove us as gatekeepers and filters.
  • What is news and who gets to decide what that is?
  • When and where do I enter? Journalism often shows up on the worst day people’s lives. How does that affect how we relate to people?

We certainly didn’t come up with answers to all these questions but some great thoughts/advice/practices developed:

  • Social media is performance but we want to listen authentically to personal stories that often aren’t shared on instagram.
  • Don’t think as a journalist about extracting stories from people- but meeting them where they are and letting them dictate their own story.
  • Just because you throw open the door and say “we’re ready to listen” doesn’t mean you’ve built trust or are truly engaging.
  • Don’t “otherize” community members: make them a part of the team.
  • Focus on the differences between ‘interviewing’ someone and ‘listening’ to them.
  • “We, as journalists, often think we know what a community wants and neglect to just let them tell us want the want”
  • There can’t be authentic listening if there isn’t authentic speaking on the part of the community because of a lack of trust.
  • Give the power we have back to the community and allow them to tell their own story.
  • Improve journalism by inviting communities to be part and parcel of journalism.
  • Be aware of your lenses so that you can help others to do the same and navigate their conflict.
  • You don’t have to package what you hear. Your best successes can come from presenting the raw of what you hear.
  • As we move through exciting new tech portals we must keep in mind that there are, and will always be, people without access to that tech so we must ensure those voices are still heard.

As we wrapped up we circled around the idea that listening and engagement should not be a concept that serves the story, but that stories should be in service to what has been heard. We must also constantly check our motives for engagement, its impact in a community, and what we are giving in return.