Building news with, not just for, the community

“We need to fund more creativity in the newsroom. We also need to have more patience; building relationships — even for the most adept news organizations — takes time.”

When we talk about the future of journalism and wring our hands about “saving the news,” the conversation invariably turns to clicks and shares and ad revenue, rather than the more sorely needed conversation: Is journalism actually serving the public?

The Geraldine R Dodge FoundationIs it providing news and information that is relevant to people’s lives? Does it reflect and honor diverse and nuanced perspectives? Help make connections and build relationships within communities? Give people a sense of agency to make informed decisions? Does it treat the public as collaborators with skills and experiences that enrich our collective understanding of important issues? Is it making a real difference in the world?

People will invest — money, time, energy — into news organizations that reliably produce news and information that is relevant, useful, and valuable to their lives and makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Trouble is, the public rarely gets asked what they care about, or invited to participate in meaningful ways.

2016 is the year that news organizations must understand that their sustainability depends on building real relationships with real people — and that means more listening, more outreach, and more collaboration. Building news with the community, not for the community.

As a funder, I am encouraged by the news organizations and projects which already understand this, and are doing quality, innovative, people-first journalism, like ProPublica, KPCC in southern California, Jersey Shore Hurricane News, the Listening Post in New Orleans, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Billy Penn, De Correspondent, and the 19 Million Project, among others. I enthusiastically support tools and platforms like Hearken and GroundSource to help newsrooms reach and collaborate with new, younger, and more diverse audiences. And I wholeheartedly encourage my philanthropy colleagues to support news organizations’ ability to experiment with community engagement strategies. We need to fund more creativity in the newsroom. We also need to have more patience; building relationships — even for the most adept news organizations — takes time.

This is hard work, but it will pay off. Journalism that truly serves and invests in the public creates a virtuous feedback loop in which the public will invest in and protect the journalism.

This is how we “save the news.” Let 2016 be the year we recognize that news is a civic tool that people are eager to put to use when given the opportunity.

Molly de Aguiar is program director for informed communities at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and cofounder of the Local News Lab.

What to read next
0What does it take to be a “full-service” digital journalism organization? Ask Discourse Media
“We’ve gone down lots of experimental rabbit holes.”
0Hot Pod: New podcasts, more existential public radio talk, and progress on intern wages
Plus: New big-picture views from Pew, Malcolm Gladwell hits the promo circuit, and more growth in branded podcasts.
0Hot Pod: Is the Stitcher deal a step toward a closed podcast ecosystem?
Plus: Midroll’s CEO steps down, Malcolm Gladwell goes audio, and how voice assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana) could impact NPR’s drive time programs.
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Wired
Associated Press
ESPN
Kaiser Health News
Wikipedia
The Dish
GateHouse Media
American Independent News Network
Bloomberg Businessweek
Creative Commons
American Public Media