Journalists in Relationship with Community: On Finding People to Talk With

Identify Reporting Gaps

In Adriana’s work, the community is woven together through her reporting process, but they’re not people who necessarily know each other at all. The community is selected by identifying whose story they haven’t yet found. “I think sometimes what I see in engaged journalism is reporters go out with a romantic idea that there’s a group of people sitting waiting for you to get in touch with [them].” She says it doesn’t usually happen like that, and when you approach your reporting with this mindset, you might end up making assumptions that the group has more in common than they really do.

Use Social Media

Kavolshaia says she starts her day with social media to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in the community. Watching over community Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok can give you a better idea of what people are talking about and who has something to say about it. Adriana uses call out forms to find the specific people she still needs for a story who are also ready to volunteer to tell that story, and she shares these forms widely in Facebook groups. “[At] every step of the reporting process, you’re zeroing in on the reporting gap. And when you fill one, there’s probably a new one that shows up.” She says building a really good form is key, because it can give you a much clearer picture of what people are dealing with even before you meet them.

Connect with existing organizations

Terry has heard great stories about reporters who go around exploring in a new community and eventually they find some well-known spot where everyone hangs out to talk about the issues they care about. He thinks that while you might get lucky sometimes being in the right place at the right time, it’s been more efficient for him to identify and try to work with local organizations.

Natalie shares that once she’s been in touch with more “official” type sources, she makes sure to find the people who are directly impacted by an issue early on.


  • Check out the Gather featured project Listening Post Macon to learn how Georgia Public Broadcasting connected with community members by creating a space where nuanced and complicated opinions are welcomed. You can find this and other related resources on Gather under the Community Participation topic.
  • Read the Listening Post Collective’s Playbook section on Choosing a Community

* * Lightning Chat! * * For more tips on using forms check out Gather’s Community Information Needs chat!