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That work has produced some amazing things: We’ve passed historic legislation in New Jersey to fund innovative local media, spurred collaborations between newsrooms and communities and worked alongside news outlets to help them better listen to local residents.

Listening to people is an important first step. But to truly transform the relationships between communities and newsrooms it’s crucial for residents to lead the charge.

To get people more involved in shaping local-news coverage, we’re excited to announce a new phase of our work beginning in 2019 in Philadelphia thanks to the support of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

Organizing for Neighborhood News

The Organizing for Neighborhood News project will be a collaboration among Free Press, Germantown Info Hub, Kensington Voice, the People’s Education Center and WHYY to train and mentor community members and student journalists to work with residents, develop stories with journalists and boost information that will help counter coverage that stigmatizes people of color and others.

For our News Voices work in New Jersey and North Carolina, Free Press has always had local organizers on the ground in communities we work and build power with. This pilot project will instead build local leadership and capacity, and test how community organizing can deepen residents’ trust in news producers, combat harmful narratives, elevate unheard voices and strengthen Philadelphia’s news-and-information ecosystem.

This project has three goals:

  • Developing equitable and trust-filled relationships between community members and both hyperlocal and citywide media partners.

  • Increasing the capacity of neighborhood organizers to collaborate with journalists and residents, resulting in coverage that represents the voices, stories and concerns of residents.

  • Honing the skills of Philadelphia journalists to conduct community outreach and engagement and forge relationships with community influencers.

Over the next few months, Free Press will develop resources and host workshops for residents in Germantown and student journalists working in Kensington that will help them use organizing tactics to better understand local-information needs. We’ll continue to mentor a group of community coordinators to develop strategies to uncover underreported stories, feed stories to hyperlocal and citywide media outlets, and better share information with community members.

Germantown Info Hub and Kensington Voice will work closely with these community coordinators to host local events, editorial meetings, storytelling workshops, pop-up newsrooms and more to put these strategies into practice and forge deeper relationships with their neighbors. To better capture the voices of local residents, WHYY will train our community coordinators on how to use audio-recording equipment so these stories will come to life from residents’ own perspectives.

Free Press will also host trainings with Philadelphia journalists on how to use organizing strategies inside newsrooms to supercharge community engagement, share power with residents and heighten the impact of reporting.

Throughout this project, we’ll capture what we’re learning and share it publicly in the hope that people and newsrooms can replicate similar collaborations and methods elsewhere.

Strength in numbers

One of the best strategies to strengthen local news and information is through collaborative efforts between newsrooms and communities.

Philadelphia is already home to one of the most exciting and impactful collaborative journalism projects in the country, Broke in Philly, which Resolve Philadelphia coordinates. And now, with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s investment in innovative collaborations, there’s even more of an opportunity for the city to create more representative media coverage.

We’re excited to be working with our partners in Philadelphia, who themselves have been innovating ways to better center the community in local coverage.

Andrea Wenzel of the Germantown Information Hub has mapped out the information needs of people in neighborhoods across Philadelphia, and designed projects that promote collaboration between journalists and community members. Jillian Bauer Reese of Kensington Voice is empowering and lifting up the voices of Kensington residents who are often ignored or dehumanized in media coverage.

WHYY is one of the most community-minded public-radio stations in the country: Community Media Editor Jeanette Woods has trained and forged relationships with people outside the newsroom so they can better tell their own stories. And the People’s Education Center, led by journalist and activist Marc Lamont Hill, is an incredible community resource that will serve as a hub for our project.

And we’re inspired by all of the collaborative projects Lenfest is supporting. We’re especially excited about working alongside the “Journalism Information Exchange Project,” a collaboration between our longtime allies at the Media Mobilizing Project, and the Media Inequality and Change Center, led by Todd Wolfson and Free Press board member Victor Pickard.

We can’t wait to get started. Now let’s get to work.

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