Lessons learned on compiling and presenting information from our Investigative Journalism for Europe fund expert calls.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the media industry hard, forcing us to rethink and reinvent the ways we practice journalism. From travel restrictions impacting ground reporting to newsrooms struggling to remain financially sustainable, not to mention the quest to keep tired audiences engaged — the challenges are many. However, this has also been a time when newsrooms and freelancers have shown immense resilience and innovation.
At the EJC, we organised two bootcamps for our grantees of the third cohort of the European Development Journalism Grants programme in September 2020. The two-day virtual event served as a platform for the eight Europe-based newsrooms to discuss their challenges of coping with reporting and engaging with audiences.
Here’s what we learned during those days.
Let’s face it, we have been surrounded by negative news since the onset of the pandemic, and audiences are getting weary of it. While it is important to report on issues related to COVID-19, how can we make sure that people continue to be engaged in the rather complex, but necessary, information landscape?
Our trainers Patricia Torres and Bilal Randeree from the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) advise newsrooms to study new media consumption habits. They gave our grantees a step by step guide on how to research new news consumption habits, listen to their audiences and build a community to generate revenue.
Here are their recommendations.
Sounds overwhelming? No need to panic! Newsrooms can also respond to the trust deficit and decreasing the interest of audiences by adopting new approaches to reporting. Here’s one way:
Why do people avoid news and what newsrooms need to know about solutions journalism (SoJo)?
People are increasingly finding news draining because they feel it is too negative and they feel helpless about it. Solutions journalism is an approach to help to reconnect them, by not only informing people but also giving them hope. It is about “information that helps audiences make right decisions,” say Nina Fasciaux, Manager Europe, Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) and Carolyn Robinson, Deputy Director of Programs, SJN, who participated as trainers at our bootcamp.
A rigorous, evidence-based approach, solutions journalism (or SoJo) focuses on reporting on responses to social problems and discusses their limitations. SoJo engages communities by asking them about their most pressing issues, letting the audience define the problem or, in some cases, even the solution. And ultimately, it is going back to the community to discuss solutions.
Here’s a summary of Nina Fasciaux’ and Carolyn Robinson’s tips.
Our trainers shared some examples of news organisations that have been using SoJo to improve their reporting by involving their communities. Mediacités, an independent online journal dedicated to local investigations in France, and Kxan, a television station in Texas, are two good examples. Mediacites received 175 suggestions, 21 pitches and 12 stories when they asked their community about COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 stories and local responses to them. Similarly, Kxan did a series on the challenges faced by youth in the education system and found out from their community that the underlying problem was actually the deteriorating mental health of young people. They reported on what was working in Texas and also in New York, leading them to win more than six national awards for their reporting.
To sum things up: Using strategic listening approaches and solutions journalism can help to keep tired communities engaged while the COVID-19 news cycle rolls on. Even more importantly, engaging with their community will help journalists build a more long-term relationship with readers, which will eventually outlive the pandemic.
Don’t miss our grantees’ reporting projects to see how they’ve used these tips in practice!