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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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Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Millie Tran   Wicked

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

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

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

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

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

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

Juleyka Lantigua   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

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

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

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

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

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

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

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

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Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

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

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

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Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

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

Richard Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

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

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

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

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

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

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

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

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

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

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Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

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

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Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

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Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

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Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

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

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

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Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

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Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Nikki Usher   All systems down

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Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

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J. Siguru Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

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

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

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Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

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Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

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Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

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

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Marie Gilot   This is fine

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

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

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

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Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

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

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