Engagement reporting at ProPublica is about giving you a place to share that kind of information. Our job is about connecting with, mobilizing and marshaling communities who have information that becomes more powerful when it’s all put together. We operate as kind of journalistic community organizers, both online and off.
What does engaged journalism mean to journalists? What are the common practices that can be thought of as engaged journalism? What is engaged journalism? We — the News Integrity Initiative and Impact Architects — attempted to surface some answers with a survey administered among journalists in August and September 2018. The survey results, when taken together with results from a survey conducted by Hearken and research done by EJC, provide insights into the what, the why, the who, and the how of engaged journalism.
As Democracy Fund seeks to support new tools and practices that can expand community engagement in journalism, we wanted to understand the landscape of the field in more detail. We commissioned this paper to help us create a taxonomy of engagement practices. In this paper, we document a broad spectrum of efforts that help position communities at the center of journalism. We understand that each model meets different newsroom goals and community needs. We refer to the full spectrum of ideas presented here as ‘Engaged Journalism.’
Based on the post, Engagement is Relational, not Transactional, this continuum visualizes the continuous loop between journalists and communities when the public is at the center of our journalism. “The question we often forget to ask ourselves is: How can we motivate more journalists (and journalism students) to put the community at the center of their work, be better listeners, and understand more precisely the needs of the public? Until we can think of the public not just as “audiences” and “consumers,” but also as experts and partners in the communities we aim to serve, we shouldn’t expect to receive the public’s complete trust.”
When uttered outside of journalism circles, the word “engagement” means something fairly specific involving rings, love, wedding bells, commitment, and the like. If there’s no pathway for input from your audience to shape the content decisions your newsroom is making, then it’s not audience engagement. Engagement happens when members of the public are responsive to newsrooms, and newsrooms are in turn responsive to members of the public.
Many will remember—some with a touch of heat—the 1990’s movement known as civic (or public) journalism, which called for a rethinking of newsrooms’ relationships with their communities. Is today’s engaged journalism a new chapter of that movement? As someone who edited a newspaper during those earlier years, and who is now working as a senior fellow and consultant with the Democracy Fund, I’d say the short answer is yes – but: Engaged journalism is a much-evolved descendant, born into a radically changed landscape.
Engaged Journalism explores the changing relationship between news producers and audiences and the methods journalists can use to secure the attention of news consumers. Based on Jake Batsell’s extensive experience and interaction with more than twenty innovative newsrooms, this book shows that, even as news organizations are losing their agenda-setting power, journalists can still thrive by connecting with audiences through online technology and personal interaction.
At the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, we believe that journalism sustainability is rooted in building stronger relationships between communities and newsrooms. While the distinction between “building with” instead of “building for” feels at first like semantics, when we begin to use it as a lens to examine journalism as both a process and a product, we see numerous ways it challenges the status quo.