This is where you need to begin. In order to understand, and then make a compelling case for, the value of community as part of your journalism, you need to have clear definitions around what you’re doing and why in all aspects of your work.
Based on conversations with more than 150 newsrooms in 30 countries, we have distilled our knowledge into six key questions that every journalism organization needs to answer before they start to think about how to engage with their communities, and which tools/platforms to use.
Any answers you write aren’t to be set in stone – this is a way to give your work direction and focus. You can revisit them at any time.
- What is your mission?
If an organization doesn’t have a clear mission statement, declaring what it does, and what makes it different from anyone else in the field, then establishing a reason to do anything will be difficult. You need to define your mission clearly, to delineate what it is you do – and what it is you don’t do.
Publishers and editors can begin to craft a mission statement by asking this simple question: If your newspaper ceased publishing tomorrow, who has the most to lose? The answer in most communities is that there would be a tremendous vacuum: For readers and public officials, who depend on the newspaper to be a credible and comprehensive source of news and information that affects the community. For advertisers who depend on the newspaper to connect them with local consumers of their goods and services. And for shareholders, employees and vendors who rely on the newspaper for income.
POLITICO deliver[s] journalism about politics and policy making that is more authoritative in its sophistication and nonpartisan perspective than any competitor; that is more useful to people with a professional interest in public affairs; and that is more fun to read for a community of people who love the drama and sheer sport of politics. Source.
The core purpose of The New York Times is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. Producing content of the highest quality and integrity is the basis for our reputation and the means by which we fulfill the public trust and our customers’ expectations. Source.
KQED is for everyone who wants to be more. Our television, radio, digital media and educational services change lives for the better and help individuals and communities achieve their full potential. KQED serves the people of Northern California with a community-supported alternative to commercial media. We provide citizens with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions; convene community dialogue; bring the arts to everyone; and engage audiences to share their stories. We help students and teachers thrive in 21st century classrooms, and take people of all ages on journeys of exploration—exposing them to new people, places and ideas. We celebrate diversity, embrace innovation, value lifelong learning and partner with those who share our passion for public service. Source.
- Who do you serve?
Who makes up your audience? Who do you currently reach, who do you want to reach, in order to fulfill your mission most effectively? Where do they live, how old are they, what genders are they, what are their education and income levels and ethnicities? When do they interact with your work? How do they find it? What devices are they using? What is their range of personal expertise / experience around each of the topics you cover?
- How do you know if you’re achieving your mission?
What does it look like for you to be succeeding in your mission? Are you seeing that? Who could tell you if you are creating the change that you are aiming for? The Journal Media Group created an impact tracker with 12 kinds of impact that they want to have:
- Law/policy change
- Government investigation
- Active social media presence
- Active engagement with their communities
- Major citations in influential reports
- Advocacy impact among activists pushing for change
- Legal impact in the courts
- Media impact in coverage and reach
- Referenced by key individuals in the areas of focus
- Institutional action
- Legislation introduced
All of your work in the newsroom needs to come back to the impact that you want to see in the world, to improve the lives of the people you serve.
- What are your biggest obstacles to achieving your mission?
Investigate, talk to others, look at your list of impact metrics, and try to compile a list of what makes each of these more difficult. Financial? Lack of good sources? Lack of good stories? Lack of audience for the stories? Lack of contacts within institutions or community groups? A bigger competitor? Newsroom attitudes to change?
- How could the people you serve help you overcome these obstacles?
Think big, be expansive. If you were starting a new audience-centered newsroom designed to overcome these obstacles, how would you do it? What would the ideal situation look like? You don’t need clear solutions at this stage – stick to broad outlines of what the people you serve could provide, in order to help you more.
- How do you know if it’s happening?
Take each of the ways that your communities could help you overcome your obstacles, and figure out methods to track if it’s working. Get as granular as you can. Is it in dollars? Contacts? Information? Reach? You might want to read our piece on choosing comment metrics to help you define each of these.