Back in the fall I got to finally do some work with my friends Peggy Holman and Stephen Sliha (and Carol Daniel Kasbari too!) with the fabulous organization Journalism That Matters. I was able to do a little process hosting and participating in the developmental evaluation that was going on during the two day conference in Portland.
Last month Peggy published an overview of what we learned in that conference. Embedded in that report is this video made by some of the students on the evaluation team. It contains interviews with many of the participants who had epiphanies about what else journalism could be.
It seems obvious to think that journalists, being storytellers, can help communities tell their stories and represent themselves. But I’m interested in the “weak signal” of journalists actually doing the convening of conversations. Journalists don’t only have the power to tell stories, they also have the power to call together people in conversation. They do it whenever they call up a source for a comment on a story. They do it on radio or TV when they call a panel of people to discuss or debate something. They do it in print or online when they host opinions and curate comment sections (and they DON’T do it when they just leave comments sections open). Why don’t journalists call community meetings? Why don’t they host larger scale gatherings where people discuss their communities issues, even come up with solutions, find each other and work together? Sometimes journalists “moderate town halls” but that’s really not the same thing.
I think the new frontiers in journalism are not only in using their media tools in novel ways. I think journalists can now think about how to extend their hosting practice in new ways too, to help communities find the resources they need inside themselves to address the challenges they face. And that would be another way that journalism could matter.