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On news and communities: Independent News Forum series (5/5)

In the fifth and final post of a series on ideas coming out of the Independent News Forum, Joe Mitchell writes up the notes on greater involvement of communities in news.

Last month, PINF and partners hosted the Independent News Forum. Out of that gathering of news providers and supporting organisations came several ideas for collaborative projects to benefit the independent news sector.

This blogpost describes the work of the group that developed ideas around better engaging communities in news provision. This description is PINF’s best understanding of the group’s discussion and might not represent PINF’s view. There’s more that can be done to develop the idea: if you’re interested, join the call at the link of the end of this post.

What are we aiming for?

The group discussed principles of what good community involvement in news – or news involvement in community - might look like:

  • Locals should tell their own stories;

  • People who are not professional journalists should be involved;

  • Content, as well as journalists themselves, should be accessible and accountable;

  • The community’s views and aspirations should be represented;

  • The community should be included in any work to solve their problems;

  • The community should have an authentic voice within the organisation.

The aim is to build an engaged and informed community, while acknowledging that it may be impossible to bring everyone along.

How to get there

The group thought the starting point was around attitudes. Primarily, the desire to involve the community. This should be coupled with a dedication to listening, an open mind, and a willingness to ‘put your hands up when you’re wrong.’

There were also a range of actions that could be taken in pursuit of greater community involvement:

  • Add community activists to the board;

  • Run training workshops to help locals tell their stories;

  • Run forums and regular volunteer meetings;

  • Run an annual meeting where the community can voice what is going wrong with the system;

  • Start a pipeline for people who want to get involved;

  • Show the things you can change (and communicate existing changes);

  • Identify things you can do together and involve communities to implement these things;

  • Think about what already exists (what are the existing touchpoints to reach communities where they are, instead of inviting them to a new space);

  • Find and connect to like-minded organisations from across the third sector.

The group noted that greater involvement might be a gradual process, but that efforts to do so need to start now.

Ideally the stimulus for this work would come from the community itself – but there are also organisations already doing this side of work that could help in the coordination.

Next steps for any collaboration

The group suggested that Public Interest News Foundation or Independent Media Association could canvas opinions from publishers on community involvement, develop a framework and highlight good practices, perhaps via a bank of good ideas.

The resources required would be time, will, energy and a genuine desire to become the heart and voice of the community.

Interested in continuing the conversation on community involvement in news? Join a videocall about this subject on Tuesday 7 February 2023 at 10am. Sign up here and add it to your calendar. You can leave comments about this work on this shared document.


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