What if journalists covered controversial issues differently — based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious? As politicians have become more polarized, we have increasingly allowed ourselves to be used by demagogues on both sides of the aisle, amplifying their insults instead of exposing their motivations. But what else can we do with conflict, besides letting it sit? We’re not advocates, and we shouldn’t be in the business of making people feel better. Our mission is not a diplomatic one. So what options does that leave?
Contemporary journalism faces a crisis of trust that threatens the institution and may imperil democracy itself. Critics and experts see a renewed commitment to local journalism as one solution. But a lasting restoration of public trust requires a different kind of local journalism than is often imagined, one that engages with and shares power among all sectors of a community.
What if readers, not just sources, were an active part of the news reporting process? A new group of journalists is exploring that possibility in an effort to deepen their reporting and build community relationships. ‘Engagement reporters’ are journalists who combine the power of community engagement with traditional news reporting to do journalism that aims to authentically serve the community and reflect their interests and needs. They’re not audience engagement editors and they’re not news reporters — they live in both worlds.
Journalism + Design has developed a suite of systems thinking tools for journalists to focus their reporting on the underlying causes of complex problems: the policies, power dynamics, and beliefs fueling systems that actively harm, marginalize, or benefit specific people. By expanding our lens beyond individual events and outcomes, journalists can hold entire systems accountable, rather than just the symptoms they produce.