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The workshop was part of the initiative Organizing For Neighborhood News, a new collaboration with the goal of developing equitable, trust-filled relationships between Philadelphia newsrooms and the diverse communities they serve.

Working alongside partners including the Germantown Information Hub, Kensington Voice, The People’s Education Center and WHYY, Free Press is fostering reporting strategies that value relationships, center communities and share power with residents.

Centering communities & relationships in local news

More than two-dozen beat reporters, radio producers, engagement editors, freelance journalists, media entrepreneurs and newsroom leaders from the region gathered at WHYY for the half-day clinic. Free Press’ Alicia Bell grounded the training by sharing how North Carolina’s Charlotte Observer has partnered with News Voices to transform its relationship with community members. In so doing, the legacy newspaper has deepened its coverage and strengthened trust among city residents.

Participants worked in small groups to create a visual map of the institutions, individuals, connectors and relationships that comprise the communities they cover. Mapping community assets is a common community-organizing technique, and throughout the workshop we returned to these diagrams to analyze who gets quoted, where newsrooms have strong relationships and where they need to build or strengthen relationships so their reporting both reflects and reaches those impacted by the issues they cover.

In the afternoon, we discussed what it would look like to incorporate the qualities of a trusting relationship — honesty, reciprocity and so on — into the relationships journalists and newsrooms have with community members. We explored techniques newsrooms could use to build such relationships, and people workshopped how they could incorporate those strategies into their day-to-day routines and long-term reporting plans.

Developing trusting relationships with local residents

Thinking of community members as constituents and collaborators can be a big shift for reporters in a field that more often frames them as sources and consumers.

Throughout the day, questions emerged about the role journalists should play in their communities, and what it means to change the way they relate to the people they cover. The workshop was an opportunity to grapple with those questions together.

One aspect of this approach we returned to time and time again was this: Developing trusting relationships is a long-term effort. We know how many demands journalists face, and how challenging it is to find time to try something new. We don’t expect relationships or coverage to shift overnight.

What we do hope is that through this workshop, journalists open their minds to new practices of reporting, ones that center the communities they cover. The News Voices team will continue to partner with journalists and newsrooms throughout Philadelphia to support them in implementing these strategies in their work.

What’s next in Philly

This latest workshop follows a training Free Press led with community members and student journalists in Germantown and Kensington in February on how people outside of newsrooms can use organizing techniques to strengthen news and information where they live.

Since then, we’ve been supporting this team from Germantown Information Hub and Kensington Voice to use a variety of strategies and tactics to deepen relationships with neighborhood residents and elevate voices that have been left out of local-news coverage.

For more information on News Voices and our resources on incorporating organizing practices in local journalism, visit newsvoices.org and check out our guide on ways to enhance community trust in newsrooms.

Check out a few photos from our workshop below:

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