Bringing Journalists And Residents to The Same Table

Bringing Journalists And Residents to The Same Table

The future of journalism lies not in building the right app, but in developing deep and meaningful connections between newsrooms and the communities they serve.

With the business of journalism so unstable in an age of mergers and newsroom layoffs, there is widespread concern about how to pay for the kind of professional news reporting that our society depends on. Yet even in the good old days of high profit margins and fully staffed newsrooms, important stories went untold, which left many perspectives out of the public conversation.

This moment of crisis is an opportunity to reinvent the way news reporting serves communities by giving the public a greater stake in the news agenda.

News Voices: New Jersey is based on that idea. Our project brings together communities and newsrooms to help them work more closely together. We’re reaching out to civic organizations and concerned residents to listen to their concerns, elevate their voices and find ways to tell their stories. We’re reaching out to local journalists to help them develop or deepen sources within the community and identify where members of the public can help with newsgathering.

In essence, we’re using community organizing to help news outlets engage with communities. Our dual aim to is build the capacity of newsrooms to tell meaningful stories that speak to people’s concerns while helping community members better understand the vital role quality local news reporting plays in the issues they care about.

On Nov. 11, News Voices is hosting a public forum in New Brunswick, the first of several we’ll hold in communities across the state through 2016. Residents, journalists, media makers, activists and others will gather to listen, brainstorm and share ideas. We’ll engage people in collaborative conversations about how local journalism can strengthen communities, and ways community members can participate in local journalism.

Whether you’re a professional journalist, a blogger, an activist, a curious citizen, a good neighbor, a college student, or an educator, we invite you to join us on Wed., Nov. 11, from 6–9 p.m. in Trayes Hall at Rutgers University’s Douglass Student Center. RSVP at this link for more information. Our next gathering will take place in Atlantic City on Dec. 8.

Public forums are just the first step in the News Voices project.

The ideas that emerge from these events will grow into collaborative projects involving media makers of all kinds. News Voices will foster these projects, providing support to build and sustain relationships between the media and the broader community.

As we grow and strengthen a diverse network of residents, civic leaders, journalists and other allies, we’ll also build a constituency to support local journalism and press freedom. We’re exploring models for community-driven advisory boards that would facilitate audience engagement and public accountability for news outlets.

And because any experiment is most successful when its results are shared, we’ll craft a toolkit based on what we learn from our efforts that others can use in their own engagement work. We’ll publish research on the news environment in New Jersey and propose policies for lawmakers to protect local journalism and safeguard press freedom.

News Voices is a project of Free Press, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that fights for your rights to connect and communicate. Through organizing, research and advocacy, Free Press works to save the free and open Internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom and ensure diverse voices are represented in the media.

News Voices: New Jersey will succeed only if we hear from you. If you’re a journalist, tell us how these efforts could help with your reporting. If you’re a member of the public, tell us how the media could better serve your community. If you’re a student, please join us for an opportunity to take part in illuminating conversations and creative projects.

For more information about our events, collaborative projects and local news advisory boards, please visit NewsVoices.org.

Contributed by the Free Press’s Fiona Morgan, Journalism Program Director, and Mike Rispoli, Press Freedom Campaign Director.
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