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Previous Free Press Action events in Camden focused on the Civic Info Bill, which was signed into law earlier this year and will fund projects designed to revive, strengthen and transform local news.

This time, more than 40 people packed into the FireWorks Art Gallery in Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood to discuss community-centered approaches to local-news coverage, and ways to bridge the gap between newsrooms and residents.

One of the best ways for journalists to build trust with communities is to listen to their concerns. Reporters can then work collaboratively with residents to ask questions about these issues, and brainstorm various story ideas that could answer these questions.

During our event, community members first paired up with reporters from the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, the Courier Post, NJ Advance Media, NJ Spotlight, State Broadcast News, Tap into Camden, WHYY, local independent journalists, and reporters from City Bureau, Hearken, Resolve Philadelphia, and Temple University, who were in town for a conference. Participants discussed the local issues that need more coverage, and a variety of themes came up public safety and traffic congestion, youth programs, economic insecurity, and new downtown development

Attendees then broke into groups focused on these topics and considered which questions reporters need to ask to better understand how these issues are experienced in Camden.

For example, the group focused on youth asked, “How can communities and youth be more visible in policymaking?” The group focused on development in Camden asked, “Why are there hundreds of nonprofits in the city? What do they do?”

Each group then discussed what stories need to be told that could answer those questions. The group focused on economic insecurity came up with story ideas exploring how transportation infrastructure could create local job opportunities. A separate group discussed the environmental impact of all of the development happening in the city.

Several of the journalists in attendance left talking about how good it was to meet face to face with Camden residents, and many said they had plenty of questions and story ideas they would follow up on.

Thursday’s event was just the beginning of News Voices’ work in Camden. Over the next year, we plan to run workshops for community members on building relationships with reporters, and will train journalists in community-outreach techniques. Other workshops will center on our work with IREX on combating misinformation, and we’ll also kickstart collaborations between residents and local newsrooms to elevate unheard voices from the city.

Check out the photos below from our amazing event:

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