The Tennessean integrates engagement efforts to generate public policy discussions that advance civic life. Director of Opinion and Engagement David Plazas says, “We’re not just text reporters; we’re focused on multi-platform experiences that will lead to action.”
The newsroom has been active in multiple solutions journalism projects, including “The Costs of Growth and Change,” a year-long series on affordable housing in Nashville that included long-form columns and three community events. In 2018, the outlet launched “Civility Tennessee,” a campaign to change the tone of political discourse in the community through its coverage and engagement activities.
The Tennessean has also demonstrated its commitment to diverse, inclusive coverage through racial, ethnic and ideological diversity in newsroom staffing. This pledge conveys that the newsroom is not only dedicated to providing fair and accurate coverage, but sees this as strategically connected to fostering an inclusive culture that attracts and retains the best journalistic talent.
- Inclusion and Diversity Task Force: For the past year and a half, the Tennessean’s Inclusion and Diversity Task Force has met with different community groups that typically have more fraught relationships with the media (i.e. working class African Americans, young American Muslims, and gun owners) to discuss hot-button issues. The Task Force represents the paper’s commitment to holding discussions that ensure racial, ethnic and ideological diversity in its coverage. Chaired by Director of Opinion and Engagement David Plazas, this effort is endorsed by the Tennessean’s top Editor as well as USA TODAY’s standards editor.
- Community events: As part of “The Costs of Growth and Change,” the Tennessean organized a forum on affordable housing, a book club discussion, and an end-of-year documentary screening and discussion. The launch event for “Civility Tennessee” was a discussion with “Ending our Uncivil War” author Jim Brown.
- Virtual Discussions: Facebook Live discussions on timely topics are a regular form of outreach for the Tennessean. As part of Civility Tennessee, Plazas hosted a Facebook Live discussion with an African-American poet about racism.
- Facebook groups: As part of Civility Tennessee, Plazas is managing a closed Facebook group that allows over 100 community members to be part of a place that models civil discourse and dialogue. Inside the group, members share opinions and articles about civility, healthy behaviors, and depolarization.
- Show your work. Much of Plazas’ job involves being out in the community as much as possible to see what people are talking about, to encourage discussion, and to share the Tennessean’s point of view. He writes editorials and columns and serves on the Tennessean Editorial Board, explaining the thinking and intentions behind the Tennessean’s engagement efforts, and then shares what actually happened to foster a sense of openness, transparency, and public accountability. These efforts to be transparent and deliberate about cultivating dialogue every step of the way are fundamental to building trust.