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7

The year of the local engagement reporter

“I’ve lost count of all the new ways of asking people to share stories that I’ve seen this year.”

2019 marked a great year for the state of local engagement reporting, which is a term my ProPublica colleagues and I use to mean giving affected communities avenues to participate in the reporting we do. Lots of times, this looks like crowdsourcing and asking people to help us with our reporting through questionnaires, letters, emails, records requests, flyers, postcards, community meetups — the list goes on.

I’m predicting more of this is coming to local journalism in 2020. I think I have reason to be optimistic.

This year, The Fresno Bee hired an engagement reporter, Isabel Sophia Dieppa, as part of its Education Lab team. It added in a November post that its plans include community meetings and listening sessions.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia announced it’s hiring a Report For America corps member who will find stories through social media and community engagement. The job posting says that the reporter will pinpoint “communities interested in and affected by our journalism, enlisting their participation in our storytelling process and reporting stories in service of these communities.”

As an engagement reporter for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, our initiative to support local investigative reporting, I’m thrilled that more journalists are joining these ranks. These are just two newsroom positions and by no means the extent of the work happening. (To that end, if your newsroom has hired a position focused on reaching affected communities for journalism, I’d love to hear about it!) I’ve lost count of all the new ways of asking people to share stories that I’ve seen this year. I believed that engagement reporting could be a game-changer for local newsrooms and their communities when I applied for this job, and nearly two years into the role, I believe that even harder.

I can’t know all that went into the genesis of these newsroom positions. I’m thankful for my colleagues, editors and mentors, who’ve for years been blazing a path forward for engagement, shouting these mantras from rooftops and showing that the community makes our work stronger. They’ve no doubt made the road to getting the green light for crowdsourcing or a community meetup much easier for journalists in 2019 than it was in 2017. And I hope that newsrooms around the country are starting to see what I’ve seen in my time at ProPublica:

  • It means something to people when you, a journalist, can hold a listening session and tell people who’ve perhaps never talked to a journalist that you care about what they have to say.
  • It means something when you can show people data or a piece of reporting and explain why you think it matters to them, and then watch them take in the journalism.
  • It means something when you stop labeling communities as “hard to reach” and instead try harder to reach them — and actually succeed in doing that.

In a year when local newsrooms will think hard about venturing out of their daily coverage areas to report on the presidential election and aim to build trust while doing it, I hope more of them choose engagement strategies. I’m hopeful that they will.

Beena Raghavendran is an engagement reporter for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

2019 marked a great year for the state of local engagement reporting, which is a term my ProPublica colleagues and I use to mean giving affected communities avenues to participate in the reporting we do. Lots of times, this looks like crowdsourcing and asking people to help us with our reporting through questionnaires, letters, emails, records requests, flyers, postcards, community meetups — the list goes on.

I’m predicting more of this is coming to local journalism in 2020. I think I have reason to be optimistic.

This year, The Fresno Bee hired an engagement reporter, Isabel Sophia Dieppa, as part of its Education Lab team. It added in a November post that its plans include community meetings and listening sessions.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia announced it’s hiring a Report For America corps member who will find stories through social media and community engagement. The job posting says that the reporter will pinpoint “communities interested in and affected by our journalism, enlisting their participation in our storytelling process and reporting stories in service of these communities.”

As an engagement reporter for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, our initiative to support local investigative reporting, I’m thrilled that more journalists are joining these ranks. These are just two newsroom positions and by no means the extent of the work happening. (To that end, if your newsroom has hired a position focused on reaching affected communities for journalism, I’d love to hear about it!) I’ve lost count of all the new ways of asking people to share stories that I’ve seen this year. I believed that engagement reporting could be a game-changer for local newsrooms and their communities when I applied for this job, and nearly two years into the role, I believe that even harder.

I can’t know all that went into the genesis of these newsroom positions. I’m thankful for my colleagues, editors and mentors, who’ve for years been blazing a path forward for engagement, shouting these mantras from rooftops and showing that the community makes our work stronger. They’ve no doubt made the road to getting the green light for crowdsourcing or a community meetup much easier for journalists in 2019 than it was in 2017. And I hope that newsrooms around the country are starting to see what I’ve seen in my time at ProPublica:

  • It means something to people when you, a journalist, can hold a listening session and tell people who’ve perhaps never talked to a journalist that you care about what they have to say.
  • It means something when you can show people data or a piece of reporting and explain why you think it matters to them, and then watch them take in the journalism.
  • It means something when you stop labeling communities as “hard to reach” and instead try harder to reach them — and actually succeed in doing that.

In a year when local newsrooms will think hard about venturing out of their daily coverage areas to report on the presidential election and aim to build trust while doing it, I hope more of them choose engagement strategies. I’m hopeful that they will.

Beena Raghavendran is an engagement reporter for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.

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Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

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A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

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Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

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Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

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Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

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Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

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Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

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Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

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Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

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Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

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John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

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Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

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Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

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Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Kevin D. Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

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Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

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Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

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Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

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Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

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Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

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Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

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