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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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Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

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

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

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

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

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

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

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

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Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

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

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

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

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

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

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

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

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

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Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

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

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

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

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

Millie Tran   Wicked

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

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

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

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

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

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

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

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

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

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Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

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

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

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Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

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