In the digital age, many news organizations equate community engagement with social media.
But connecting in person can be just as important, wrote Chicago Tribune's James Janega in a recent Poynter post. He shared advice on how journalists can connect with readers in today's news environment.
Here are some of his suggestions:
Keep the lines of communication open
"Pick a topic, any topic, and invite a dozen people with surprising vantage points to lunch with a dozen journalists. That describes our regular Community Conversation lunches with local connectors and thought leaders," Janega writes of the Tribune's communication tactics. Some of these gatherings have dealt with issues including personal debt, pets and voting. It's important to get people talking, he says, and equally important to listen.
Let the audience peek behind the curtain
Outlets should offer up information, too. Let readers know what's behind the newsgathering process. Show how stories were discovered, and explain why they were tackled from specific angles. "Readers want to know how journalism works and why we make certain decisions," he writes.
Don't dismiss feedback
Despite the myriad and sometimes accusatory comments readers leave, it's crucial for editors to take suggestions seriously. Doing this establishes trust with the audience, Janega says. "The most basic and meaningful social interaction newsrooms have with their readers has to do with being accurate, verifiable and fair," he writes. "When we fail to live up to that compact, our readers — and our colleagues — expect us to point out the error quickly and clear it up." Corrections should be acknowledged both in print and online story versions, he says.
Put a face with the name
Hosting community events gives readers a chance to mingle with reporters in a purely social setting, which reminds the audience that there are actual people behind their daily news, Janega says. This allows the audience to view outlets as groups of trustworthy individuals rather than dubious institutions. "When many of us began our careers, institutions gave people credibility. Take a look around lately, and it’s easy to see that institutions, including news organizations, are precisely what people don’t trust," Janega says.
Poynter Online, IJNet’s partner and the website of the Poynter Institute, is a school serving journalism and democracy for more than 35 years. Poynter offers news and training that fits any schedule, with individual coaching, in-person seminars, online courses, webinars and more.
Photo CC-licensed, courtesy of Flickr