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Community becomes a core newsroom value

“Newsrooms will no longer build community just because it’s nice; newsrooms will lean into the opportunity to connect with the people who are reading and sharing their work in order to have a devoted audience.”

Community will be a core value for newsrooms in 2019. What does the audience get out of its relationship with the newsroom? That’s the question journalists will keep at the center of their work next year.

Comments on articles, crowdsourced reporting, and Facebook groups aren’t new ideas in journalism. What’s different now is an understanding of why paying attention to community spaces is crucial to the health of the industry: cultivating trust and loyalty. When it comes to their values, newsrooms will make the people who consume their content a priority in order to reach those goals.

The audience matters. It sounds obvious, but it’s still an afterthought in many newsrooms. Up until now, community has been on the backburner for many publishers, often a huge driver of loyalty that’s been largely ignored. That’s about to change. Building connections between reporters and audiences before, during, and after the reporting process will benefit journalism in the long run, and that realization will become a focus throughout newsrooms next year.

Weaving community organically into the newsroom takes time, especially when the daily news cycle requires so much of our attention. So how will this value shift happen? By proving over and over that emphasizing community benefits everyone involved — the journalists, the audiences, and the news organizations. By sharing with our peers what’s working and what’s not. By defining a common language for community work, and developing solid loyalty metrics.

Vox’s ER billing database project, for example, has collected more than 1,700 ER bills over the last year in an effort to bring transparency to American health care prices. We’ve written stories that can only be told because of experiences people have shared with us. And we’re seeing the impact of the work — Senator Maggie Hassan introduced a bill in October to end surprise emergency room bills. She says her bill was inspired by our reporting. The community is a central part of this reporting, and we periodically email them with questions and updates.

Newsrooms will no longer build community just because it’s nice; newsrooms will lean into the opportunity to connect with the people who are reading and sharing their work in order to have a devoted audience. People who interact with our newsrooms in engaging, meaningful ways will see more value in our work. So no matter where our traffic is coming from on any given month in any given year one thing will remain consistent: People will be invested.

Lauren Katz is senior engagement manager at Vox.

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