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Let’s do a quick exercise. Can you name more than five European publishers whose journalism is based on an ongoing conversation between themselves and their communities? If your answer is yes, chances are these examples are mostly located in Western Europe. If your answer is no, how would you go about finding them?
News organisations that are doing engaged journalism in Europe tend to be smaller and they are not always the ones we get to read about. The way they innovate rarely translates into pioneering the newest tools or technologies. Instead, their innovation is often about creatively adapting ‘traditional’ resources, such as texting and events, in order to serve the information needs of their communities.
But they do not know each other and they don’t necessarily have the capacity to reach out to colleagues doing the same work across the continent, and share learnings. This is where we want to help.
When I joined the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, one of the first tasks I set out to do was to spend some time mapping emerging European publishers that are putting community engagement — geographical or topical — at the centre of one or more of the following: ownership, reporting, distribution, impact and revenue.
Over the last three months, our goal has been to identify at least one engaged journalism publication in each European country. Today we are publishing the Engaged Journalism In Europe Database, a list of 70+ news organisations from 26 countries, whose mission is to empower communities and their conversations.
We will be expanding and updating this database throughout the duration of the Accelerator.
A huge nod of acknowledgement and gratitude goes to Emily Goligoski, Gonzalo del Peon and the entire team at the Membership Puzzle Project, a research initiative from NYU’s Studio 20 programme and De Correspondent. Their ‘Membership Models in News Database’, published in October 2017, was the foundation for the Engaged Journalism In Europe Database. You will find many of the organisations and columns are present in both.
Across the pillars of the Accelerator — grants, events, resources and mentorship — our mission is to support, connect and inspire engaged journalism practitioners with each other, and with people in other relevant fields, both in Europe and abroad.
As Adam, the European Journalism Centre’s director, wrote in the post announcing the launch of the Accelerator back in April, we’re “mindful that there’s no single winning model for engagement or revenue”.
European news organisations are approaching business models and journalistic practices differently, according to what works best for their communities, and what adapts to the historical, geographical and socio-economic context of their respective countries.
The database aims to reflect this and kick-start a conversation around the different ways in which publishers in Europe are involving their communities in their reporting, and connecting groups of people to each other.
The 70+ publishers featured in the database are a mix of for-profit and non-profit, and they operate as co-operatives, community media associations, civic associations, public benefit organisations, among others. They have diverse revenue streams ranging from membership and subscription to crowdfunding, education, publishing and the licensing of products such as CMSs.
The level of involvement their communities have varies from financial support, to influencing the stories covered, to contributing reporting, skills or time. This participation takes place in a combination of online and offline spaces, from Slack groups and newsletters, to events.
We have also found it important to address in this database the following questions:
Our hope is that this database will give you, an individual or organisation, an idea of the engaged journalism landscape in Europe, and encourage you to reach out to those you would like to exchange ideas with.
However, we still have a lot of work to do. For some European countries, we have more than one example, while others, including Iceland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Malta, are still blank spots.
Are you working in an organisation where community engagement is a core tenet? Tell us.
Do you know of a publisher that meaningfully and regularly involves users (those who benefit from journalism as a public service) in the reporting process? Let us know.
Are you aware of an emerging publication that tried to introduce an approach to journalism that is for and with communities, and hit a roadblock? Put us in touch with them.
At the end of August, we will be sharing more data and findings from our listening month, to complement the database. We want to use these initial resources to begin to formulate some hypotheses around the relationship between the level of involvement a community has in a news organisation, their financial support, their becoming more informed citizens, and how that feeds back into the structural and financial resilience of that publication.
The list has been compiled using public information, available on the websites of the organisations mentioned, in the Membership Puzzle Project database, and in industry publications such as Nieman Lab, Journalism.co.uk, Poynter.
For any questions, comments, corrections or contributions related to the database, you can reach us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ejcnet.
Are you interested in being more involved with the work of the Engaged Journalism Accelerator? Sign up to our upcoming newsletter and join our network as an ambassador for the programme, a mentor to a grantee, a prospective participant to an engaged journalism event, or a potential research partner. Or tell us in what other ways we can work together.