Good journalists know what’s happening in their community and build networks of sources to call upon when writing stories. Yet they often fail to engage those affected by the problem.
Solutions reporting is significantly advanced by inclusive dialogue that gets journalists interacting with diverse community members they wouldn’t typically meet and listening to points of view they might otherwise not hear. Catalyzing these conversations are worthwhile in themselves, as they build trust and empathy between the newsroom and the community; even more valuable, however, are the ideas and insights that emerge.
Our newsroom partners have found that targeted outreach can result in fresh, unexpected takes on the issues at hand. Such discussions debunk assumptions and surface entirely new questions and issues to frame coverage. By first establishing pathways and platforms for groups to contribute their own perspectives on a range of topics, the resulting solutions stories are also likely to have greater reach, relevance, and resonance.
There are various mechanisms for fostering inclusive and diverse dialogue, whether through focus groups, community events, facilitated discussions, or online discussion groups. Some of our partners have added an extra layer of public accountability to these engagement efforts by linking activities to the newsroom’s mission to model values of inclusion, diversity, and civility.
“There had been a lot of research done on this topic [the impact of violence in urban communities on children], but we wanted to hear directly from people in the community about what issues concerned them most.”
“People's needs are very different from what we think they are. We need to step back and remember how to address their needs, right now.”