With dwindling time and resources in newsrooms, does it make sense to invest in citizen-powered journalism and training? These programs might accomplish the mission of many newsrooms and improve democracy as a whole, but do they actually change communities? There are plenty of places to seek answers, because there is no shortage of programs that seek to train and “empower” people on behalf of journalism.
In a context of increasing distrust in institutions, including government, media and news, there is need to understand how civic innovators are using media and technology to counter these trends. Based on over 40 interviews with practitioners, this report identifies “civic media practice” as media and technology used to facilitate democratic process. It focuses specifically on those practitioners using media tools to form relationships and build trust – a practice that sometimes runs counter to the apparent needs of organizations to enhance efficiency through technology. This report identifies civic media practice as a direct response to the crisis of distrust and describes the negotiation of values that takes place as media is designed and deployed in organizations.
In 2015, Free Press launched News Voices after recognizing that community members aren’t often included in the discussions around how communities get news or how journalists could better serve the communities they work in. The program started in New Jersey with World Cafe style listening forums where community members could share their concerns with journalists.
What’s possible when the public and journalists engage to support communities to thrive? Engagement is about authentic connections, valuing people, and mutual exchanges so that what’s best for individuals and the community as a whole emerges. With both journalists and other community members present at Experience Engagement, some conversations also pointed towards a communications ecosystem that supports the civic health of communities. Beyond journalism, as we know it, this civic communications ecosystem would provide robust information, feedback, inclusive dialogue, strategy and action for serving community goals. Read more of this from co-author Peggy Holman.
Our focus on inclusion is misplaced as long as it fails to change the structures and practices that promote exclusion in the first place. Inclusion is inherently about exclusion. No matter what the particular subject — voting, education, technology, you name it — whenever we talk about the need to include people we implicitly acknowledge that the status quo is exclusive — that there are people who are currently not included in X, Y, or Z, but who could be. That’s the language we use — those of us living comfortably in our own inclusion: “Not included.”
We attempt to demystify and reveal the many faces of power. We look at power as an individual, collective, and political force that can either undermine or empower citizens and their organizations. It is a force that alternatively can facilitate, hasten, or halt the process of change promoted through advocacy. For this discussion, we draw on practical experience and theory, particularly related to poverty and women’s rights where power has been analyzed from the vantage point of subordination and discrimination. We also offer a variety of tools and frameworks for mapping and analyzing power and interests.