What does meaningful engagement by journalists look like, and how does it differ from traditional journalism?

Session host: Lee van der Voo
Participants: John Spady, Fiona Morgan, Jana Thrift, Marla Crockett, J.M. Ross, Mike Green, Terry P., Celeste H.D., Margaret Staniforth, Miro Merrill, Dan Archer, Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn, Clair Lorrell, Franziska Monahan.

There was not agreement about where the line is between meaningful engagement by journalists and activism, but we started from the principal that the community is an ecosystem, and that we have a roll to play in it. Suggestions for working to define that roll: building source relationships, collaborating with partners, looking at the history of cultures and issues, identifying cultural influences. We agreed the following things are important: to tell the stories of the problem solvers who are already there, to recognize that history is an important context but that the perspective on history is not universal, and to respect that communities are often exhausted by their circumstances, and might feel that way about engagement. Also: it’s important to filter out people with agendas.

Whatever engagement by journalists looks like is not top down – that was universal. It differs from traditional journalism in that it has to be interesting – quit being boring! – and not attempting to steer people. Often when we think people are off topic, they are simply trying to share their larger truths with us. We should listen. We need to speak their language and not bungle dialects. If we’re engaging an issue, it does mean brushing up on the lingo so we don’t alienate and offend. Break down our own ridiculous journalistic silos. Distinguish between what is advocacy and what is simply offering solutions.

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