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Dec. 13, 2019, 9:58 a.m.
Reporting & Production

How can a news outlet share power with its audience?

That kind of question may make more traditional journalism thinkers quake, but it’s an inquiry that more and more news organizations are — slowly — undertaking.

“We need citizens to be equipped to navigate the world around us. Because good journalism is great for democracy but a citizenry equipped to meet the challenges of democracy is necessary for democracy,” Darryl Holliday of City Bureau wrote earlier this year. “At City Bureau, we believe that journalism is not fundamentally a profession or an industry; it’s an act of citizenship, and our role is not simply to inform the public but to equip people to access the information they need to strengthen their communities.”

And now there’s a guide for how to do it. The Engaged Journalism Accelerator, across the pond from us here in Cambridge, and nonprofit communications agency On Our Radar (see its manifesto here) put together a 57-page report on “telling powerful and inclusive stories with underserved communities,” attempting to unpack that question as well as these:

How do we report stories in a way that is representative and inclusive of our community? How are we challenging stereotypes that have persisted until now? What’s the best way to make use of the lived experience, access and insight available? And, crucially, how do our reporting processes support the emergence of new narratives?

I appreciate the first few pages of the guide, which addresses a frequent reaction of not having enough time to put this theory into practice. Here’s a scenario to answer that:

In 2016, just before the referendum in the UK, you may have been commissioned to visit a series of towns and cities to find out what residents thought about Brexit. Imagine if, at the same time, you brought those residents together and trained them to report on Brexit in their hometowns. Unlike your rival media houses, you now have a steady stream of stories coming into your newsroom about how ordinary people really feel about Brexit — and how it links to their daily lives. You make a series of documentaries or podcasts narrated by your community reporters as they interrogate significant political shifts among British people and how these shifts link to their daily concerns about health, family and jobs. You are one of the only newsrooms that isn’t accused of being out of touch with how British people think and feel.

The main thrust of the guide, written by Libby Drew and Zoë Jewell: Address the barriers of disillusion, lack of resources, skepticism, online access, and training with a mission developed together, mentoring and hands-on coaching, and side-by-side production to walk through each step of the process. Or, the 5 C’s:

The full report is available here.

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