Announcing “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism” Awardees

The Agora Journalism Center, the gathering place for innovation in communication and civic engagement, at University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication, is pleased to announce the awardees of “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism.”

With funding from The Robert Bosch Foundation and the News Integrity Initiative, the “Engaging Communities” project aims to achieve cross-border collaboration with engagement practitioners in the media. The project will support media outlets focused on building connections and trust with their communities. Building on a successful model from the 2018 “Finding Common Ground” project, four media outlets from Europe and four from the U.S. were selected to receive over €10,000 in project and mobility support to expand on their community engagement projects. The awardees will also attend two facilitated sessions with the cohort to share best practices and recognize opportunities for collaboration.

The selection committee, which included members of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the European Journalism Centre, reviewed over 60 proposals from which eight winners were selected.

The “Engaging Communities” projects will work collaboratively to reflect on how to assess and articulate the value and impact of their engagement work by utilizing the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide (RPG) which was co-developed by the Engagement Lab and the Agora Journalism Center along with the participants in last year’s “Finding Common Ground” initiative. More information about the RPG can be found in the latest Agora Journalism Center report, “Building Engagement: A Report on Supporting the Practice of Relational Journalism.”

Similar to the Finding Common Ground initiative, each Engaging Communities project leader/project representative will also visit a fellow participant’s project in order to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations of their engagement work. To get a sense of how this works, check out this video. This year’s selected projects will also receive mentorship and guidance from leading engagement practitioners.

Here is how the Engaging Communities awardees describe their projects:

  • Are We Safe? (The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina) – What scares us? What are we afraid of – for ourselves, our families, our communities? What keeps us up at night? Recently, we have noticed that worry, stress, and fear are most often the themes underlying the questions we receive through comments, social media, phone calls and emails to our newsroom, and through our current project using Hearken. There is deep concern about all types of serious issues: crime, affordable housing, bad leadership. That audience feedback is why we decided to launch “Are We Safe?” This year-long project will encompass stories that address our region’s fears and concerns, from infrastructure to personal safety issues to job security. Every story will examine readers’ personal experiences, statistics, potential solutions, and, most importantly, accountability. To increase trust, transparency and mutual understanding, we will include readers in ride alongs with journalists. We also are planning four community listening events so that our audiences can discuss their concerns.
    • Project Co-Leads: Dawn Vaughan and Anna Johnson
    • Mentor: Andrea Wenzel, Temple University
  • DN Más Cerca (Diario de Navarra, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain) – Diario de Navarra, a local paper founded in 1903, has always been focused on serving the Navarrese community and working for its better understanding. “DN Mas Cerca” aims to build connections and trust. We approach the community as active citizens and invite them to shape our journalism. In order to listen and co-create we have designed a relational engagement model that allows us to be more relevant and achieve a positive impact. A pilot project has been implemented in a village of 6,000 citizens. How we did it: Developing trust in an ongoing process that involves listening, validating, co-designing, action, impact and measurement. Inspirational sessions with a multidisciplinary team with journalists, sociologists and talent experts. Face to face meetings with neighbors to identify and understand their key needs interests, goals and challenges as a community. A conversational scenery where dialogues and connections among them could be held and inspiration could be moved to action.
    • Project Lead: Estefania Nicolas
    • Mentor: Ashley Alvarado, KPCC
  • “Ehrenamt” volunteering newsletter (Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, Germany) – One in five Berliners, 800.000 people, are involved in volunteering. As Berlin’s major local paper, Tagesspiegel has been continuously reporting on this community, dedicating one page every week to volunteering and civic engagement. During the annual “volunteer days”, founded in 2011 by Tagesspiegel, hundreds of Berliners get in touch with local volunteer initiatives by participating in park clean-ups, cooking meals at the homeless shelter, or giving after-school lessons to refugee kids. Our annual fundraising campaign encourages readers to donate to community projects (425.000 euros this year). To strengthen this network in a digital age, we are launching a monthly newsletter with news stories, interviews with local initiatives, and classified ads for volunteer organizations. Newsletters are integral to our local reporting: every week, 12 “Leute” newsletters report on the 12 districts of Berlin; every morning, the “Checkpoint” newsletter greets readers with news roundup.
  • Gathering Against Violence (Illinois Public Media/Illinois Newsroom (RJC), Champaign-Urbana & Danville, IL) – I would like to continue my engagement work with gun violence survivors and host a series of World Cafe style events in Danville and Champaign, Illinois where community members will discuss strategies for solving community violence (particularly gun violence) with their City Councils and Mayors. Illinois Public Media hosted World Cafe style dinner and conversation events on gun violence in anticipation of the April 2 municipal elections. Community members worked with journalists to build questionnaires for local elected office candidates, asking how they plan to address the gun violence issue and the many community factors that increase the prevalence of violence. City Council and Mayoral candidates answered these questionnaires and we used them as our primary election coverage. Now it is time for the newly elected City Council Persons and Mayors to hold true to the commitments they laid out in the campaign rhetoric. This grant will support events that turn rhetoric into action
  • How to Engage Conflict-Affected Community (Democracy & Freedom Watch, Georgia) – I’m a reporter at Democracy & Freedom Watch, Tbilisi-based bilingual (English and Georgian) news website which is focused on covering issues related to democratic development and human rights in Georgia. DFWatch is perhaps the sole news media in the country that covers the very coherent community of people commuting through conflict line, which separates breakaway Abkhazia with Georgia proper. Their number varies between 5 to 12 thousand. A large majority have a status of IDP and live in settlements adjacent to the conflict line. The goal is to establish a mechanism to extract opinions and problems and seek their solutions of community. To this end, we plan to: Host meetings with community members; Vitalize conversation via creating FB group which will work as a main platform of communication; Establish a core group of community activists, bloggers and socially active youths, and train them in grassroots activism; Host a Facebook live streams with decision-makers.
    • Project Lead: Malkhaz Gagua
    • Mentor: Ivan Sigal, Global Voices
  • Quartiers Connectés (Rue89 Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France) – The goal of Quartier connectés is to build trust in media within popular neighborhoods of Strasbourg. Because in these areas, people only see journalists next to policemen or firemen, they tend to assimilate journalists as a part of a “system” they globally mistrust. Therefore our journalists go inside these neighborhoods and invite the inhabitants to discuss their issues with them, freely, outside of any timing nor frame, in open meetings we call “conférence de rédaction ouvertes” (open news conferences). The inhabitants have a chance to meet journalists, talk to them, exchange information and participate in the news building process. During the discussion, they understand what’s newsworthy within their testimonials and how journalists will work upon these topics. Then they see their issues published alongside other topics from the global city. They feel they are a part of the global community, connected, and that’s how we build trust.
  • Seattle Globalist Community Newsroom (The Seattle Globalist, Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Globalist’s coverage areas are immigrant communities, communities of color and other communities underrepresented in media. We recently updated our strategic plan to emphasize coverage led by the needs of our target communities. One strategy to increase our public outreach and transparency is through “Community Newsrooms” targeted to our coverage communities. For this project, we envision a pilot of three public forums from August to October. If they’re successful, we will expand to other communities. We would work with leaders of a specific target community on a two-hour forum. This will include a short talk by a guest speaker from that community, and the rest of the session would consist of “talk sessions” with journalists (our freelancers or other guest reporters) around three or four specific questions meant to evoke concrete stories and story ideas — from news to features to profiles — generated and led by people from the communities we cover.
    • Project Lead: Venice Buhain
    • Mentor: Madeleine Bair, Free Press
  • Why Utah? — East West Series (The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah) – Salt Lake City is, in many ways, a tale of two places. The East Bench along the Wasatch range is predominantly white, wealthy and Mormon and ‘known’ as Utah’s center of political, social and economic power. The West Side corridor is the most racially diverse area of our historically homogenous state, known for the challenges that stem from inequity. In many respects, the West Side is the future of Utah; the East Bench is less so. These two parts of our city do not know each other well, if at all. For the past 9 months, The Tribune has hosted the Why Utah? Facebook group to bridge the gap between Utahns of different backgrounds and beliefs. We are encouraging Utahns to talk about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and how it’s being represented in the media. We plan to bring this conversation off social media and live into the public to increase dialogue, understanding and trust. Why Utah? will serve as a launch pad for expanded conversations and media coverage.

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