Talk Less. Listen More. How Listening Can Help Journalists Begin to Repair Relationships with Marginalized or Ignored Communities
Session facilitator(s): Amy Kovac Ashley, David Plazas
Day & Time: Friday, 10-11:15am
AMY: Good morning, everybody. We’re kind of a small crowd. If you could do me a favor and move yourselves forward. And make sure you have other people at your table. Yeah. That’s good. Thank you for helping me with that. I know that’s tough sometimes. People don’t like to sit in the front of the room. But welcome this morning. You are here for talk less. Listen more. Which is all about connecting with and listening to marginalized and ignored communities.
We are going to get started. This is our agenda for the morning. We’re going to do intros of us. You guys are going to do intros amongst yourselves. We’re going to look at case studies that we published at the American Press Institute. And then we’ll get into the group work because all of you are in the room and from different areas. It’s great to hear from different people. But you can walk away with practical advice about what you can do in your newsrooms to listen better to all different types of communities. But particularly those that you have not done such a great job at listening to.
My name is Amy Kovac Ashley. I work at the American Press Institute. I have been there for about two years. My role is come on in. My role is focused on culture and skill and professional development. But I also have a particular interest in sort of community engagement and those sorts of things. American Press Institute has been doing a lot of work in that area. Some of the stuff we will be looking at is a direct result of our research and we’ll tell you more about that.
I was in newsrooms for about a dozen years and then I moved into higher ed. I was at Georgetown and at West Virginia journalism program and have been at API for about two years. This is a little bit about API for those of you who don’t know us. Please feel free to take sticks are. I left them on the tables for all of you. If there aren’t enough, let me know. I have extras. There are four major things that we do.
Help the news industry understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public service journalism and succeed at organizational change. Of those, I’m with the last one, culture change and professional development. But that’s connected to the other three things that are up there as well. One other thing we left on the table for you guys is a little square card. It’s the it’s got the information for our newsletter. Some of you already get it. It’s called Need to Know. It comes out Monday through Friday. It’s a look at what’s happening around the industry. Most of it’s related to what’s happening in American journalism. But we will also look at what’s happening overseas as well. And there’s things like research and things like that that are related to the type of work that journalists do. Including things around organizational change.
Through my work at API, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet David who introduces himself.
DAVID: I will use the microphone for the transcriber. I’m director of opinion and engagement and I look at and manage strategies for working with the communities. And I sometimes get into very uncomfortable conversations. In 2017 I led a campaign on affordable housing. It was interesting. We looked at affordable housing in Nashville and gave voice to people who felt left out. Especially low income African American renters and homeowners because of the boom in Nashville. It turned into a multi year project and a documentary and helped bring the community together with the events and coverage.
This year we have a campaign called civility Tennessee. It’s a controversial word, especially recently. And we’re looking at what does that really mean. To me, it doesn’t mean being nice. It’s just really hard to be at this time. And for a journalist, especially with the events of yesterday and my phone blowing up with colleagues saying should we be scared? You should be cautious. Awake. Be really, really focused on the fact that what you do is a threat to some people. Our goal is to develop deep conversations with communities so we can be a part of the community not just that fly on the wall we used to be.
Ten years ago, engagement with the community used to be fringe. Today it’s absolutely fundamental in journalism. I want to talk about what we’ve done and hear from your experiences too.
AMY: Do you want to remind the ground rules.
DAVID: We have a scribe here.
AMY: It’s Amanda.
DAVID: If you want to be off the record, say off the record. And if you want to go back, Amanda will come back. And we will be using Etherpads, if you want to include ideas in that, we have links available and have the opportunity to share back later if you want to leave your email addresses to follow up with you with some of the findings that we have.
AMY: We put links of the slides and a lot of the work that David has done so you can see some additional material than what’s in the slides. Now I want you guys to actually introduce yourselves to your tables. Since there’s so few of us, maybe quickly go around the room. And then a quick exercise at your table. Start here.
Hi, I’m Disha, a data reporter.
Joe, director of knight Lab at northwestern.
I’m a design lead at the journalism design program
I’m Matt, I’m at an organization, a company that does a lot of work around foreclosure and the housing crisis.
Alison, journalism institute.
I’m Jennifer, I run a company called in Chicago.
I’m Tim. I run, I’m a software developer at Conde Nast.
Kristin, breaking news editor with USA Today Florida and I work out of the news press and Naples Daily News. Yes.
I work at AP.
I’m Leslie, a graphics reporter at the Washington Post.
Lynn Jacobson, a deputy managing editor at CL Times.
I’m a product manager at chemical and engineering news.
Lisa, most recently at CNN and I do some consulting right now.
I’m with project
AMY: Okay. In your groups, actually, individually, we’ll start individually. If you can think yourselves in whatever capacity of your work. Basically thinking about one specific as specific as you can be neglected or marginalized group that you would like to listen to more in your work. We’ll take a minute to think about that on your own and then discuss with your groups. Ideally you would have a post it that you would put that on. But let me get you guys some more sharpies.
So, go ahead and think on your own for a minute. If everybody can put it on their post it, that will be great. We’ll put them in the big group and see if there’s commonalities across the room, but this is just for you to think about right now.
Okay. So, go ahead and finish up your description and what they are. I want you guys for about five minutes or so discuss the group you chose and tell your group why you chose that group. So, go ahead and work at your tables.
AMY: Okay, guys. You have one more minute.
DAVID: All right, everybody. Thank you. I know there’s wonderful conversations that we’re hearing. But we want to get a chance to get a couple shoutouts of the community. Not with too much explanation. But just what are those communities that you think are not being covered exceptionally well and you would like to see more attention to. Feel free to just shout it out. Anyone?
AUDIENCE: Low and no income people. Really low income. Impoverished.
DAVID: Low income people.
AUDIENCE: First generation college students.
DAVID: Where are you
AUDIENCE: I’m at a news magazine.
AUDIENCE: Migrant and seasonal workers.
DAVID: Migrant and seasonal workers.
AUDIENCE: I want to talk more to renters and especially low-income renters.
DAVID: Renters and low-income renters. Some of you, with regards to the Harvard annual study on housing last week and has a lot of great things. And unfortunately it’s not very good when it comes to the wealth category. Not to depress you or anything. It’s one of the things I’m writing about next week.
AUDIENCE: You probably would know this, the Haitian Creoles in Immokalee. We don’t have anybody on staff that speaks Haitian Creole. That’s a population we don’t speak to and don’t know a lot about.
DAVID: And it’s a decades long problem.
DAVID: Anybody else?
AUDIENCE: Political conservatives. I live in Seattle. It’s a tiny, tiny minority and they will generally not talk to us even if we look for them.
DAVID: That’s a great point. News organizations and driving away how do you address conservatives since we have this perceived bias. And USA Today which has gotten a little bit of a controversial reception. They just wrote about it this week. Anybody else? Now, this is a great combination of different groups. We do this engagement work. We think about the group and start asking questions amongst each other. I chaired our diversity and inclusion task force at Tennessean and it was set up in 2016 to look at ourselves. Are we as a newsroom reflecting the communicate? Our answers were no.
What can we do to do a better job to let people see what we do and start building those deep relationships?
AMY: So, in general journalists think that we’re pretty good listeners because we, you know, we listen to people all the time, right? We interview them, we hear from them in various ways. We might hear from users on the tech side, et cetera. So, we usually think that we’re actually pretty good at it. But most of the time we’re just listening to talk. Or to get that next question in. Or to advance whatever our sort of idea of a story is, right? And that’s a form of listening, right? But it’s listening that doesn’t always offer an opportunity for other people to really be their full selves and explain who they are in a way that’s more meaningful.
And it doesn’t work if we’re trying to communities that we have been pretty poor to, quite frankly. If we are constantly looking for what we think the story is without actually hearing from people, we’re never really going to hear from the stories are. We’re never really going to get to what the issues are. And those voices that we say we at least want to be hearing and giving voice to the voiceless, right? You hear that from journalists all the time. I think that’s a really big part of our mission. But we don’t always do that very well. And historically in most news organizations, I would say, there are communities that we have completely neglected. There are others that we have misrepresented. In multiple ways. And/or we marginalize them in some way.
So, we need to be more mindful of the fact that we are not coming with a clean slate to a lot of communities. We are actually in a position of needing to give up a little bit of our power when we come into new communities. And part of that is actually shutting our mouths, right? I mean, there’s sort of a little joke about you have two years and one mouth and we don’t always use that in the right sort of ratio, right? What we need to do, though, instead, is to do what we have called focused listening. At least at API. Where the emphasis is actually hearing others more deeply.
So, it’s more about the other people than it is about us. It’s more about what people’s stories are and less about what we bring to the table. So, the big piece of this is that true listening actually requires humility. And, again, journalists are not always great about having a lot of humility. There’s a lot of ego in this business for some reasons that have been around for a long, long time.
But if we are going to ask people who we have treated poorly, quite frankly, to share their stories with us, then we have to basically meet them and say, you know, we are going to be humble. We need to come to you. And you know more about your communities than we do. And that’s a really good starting point of, again, giving back that power to the communities who know more about their own experiences than we might think we do. Even if we have done research. Even if we have done all of the reading in the world, we don’t know it the way they do because they live those lives every day and we don’t.
So, what API did earlier this year, we have been sort of rolling out a few of these, but we now actually have all four of them, is we published a group of four different essays about how news organizations across the country have started to employ more focused listening into their actual every day kind of journalism.
And so, David was actually one of the people who wrote an essay for us on his work at the Tennessean. We’re going to go through all four of those those sort of case studies. David will talk about two of them. I will talk about two of them. And then you will get to having you guys talk about hopefully inspired by some of these things things that you can do in your newsrooms. So, I will pass it to David.
DAVID: Thank you very much. I mentioned the diversity and inclusion task force in 2016. We met at the public library. Nashville is the start of civil rights, the American Baptist college. It’s a complicated history. And it has institutionalized racism that you can see in the community. These are clues we can think about. And it has to be coverage over time. People said we solved this problem. Some of the things that we really tried to do was create projects and also listening sessions that would help the communities that we serve and help them understand us better and help us become better journalists.
The quick examples that I’ll talk about are young American Muslims, gun owners and very diverse groups because we want to get out there. A few years ago I had authorized an op Ed related to the Charlie Hebdo attack. One took a hardline view, another with the other view. But the first one, people felt hurt and wounded. Mosques were vandalized. This is Tennessee. Very hostile to religious minorities. And I was new to the job and it was eye opening to me, as a journalist, did I do it malpractice by running it as if everyone has the same privilege I do? The answer was yes.
We met with Muslim leaders starting in 2015. And we would meet every year. And in 2017, we met with young American Muslims. Oftentimes people tell us we’re not Muslim Americans. We’re American Muslims. We were born in the United States and have known only the United States pretty much. It was a wonderful conversation. It was an ah ha moment that we should have known is don’t just cover us when there’s a terrorist attack. Don’t just cover us when there’s news in the Middle East. We are Americans. We’re teachers, we’re engineers, we want to be part of the fabric of our community.
That’s led to a much deeper relationship. This past month during Ramadan, we went and served as table facilitators for iftar. It’s a meal that’s a big community event that’s basically full circle showing we are committed to this relationship or continue to be. The issue of gun owners that allowed pushback. How could you gun owners are all crazy. You know, mass shootings. Precisely because we have this bias against gun owners we need to meet with them.
It was a rich conversation and powerful. It was the day that Representative Scalise was shot on the baseball field. And they had diverse views on gun ownership. Some said we want open carry, others, you should know how to use and store it. And we had small sessions. Hey, we’re not the bad guys. We’re not looking to take your gun rights away. We’re not hostile and created an understanding that we had a column that came out that said we’re all about responsibility. And since that time, the editor writers, op ed writers, the difference between an automatic and a semiautomatic. Unfortunately, that’s becoming important as we see more and more mass shootings. It’s become important to understand that not all gun owners are looking to shoot up. Most are not.
The veterans issue was very interesting. Because they were a group that felt very much out of place coming back to the United States. Everybody is thanking us, but nobody’s hiring us. There was a survey a few months ago that showed civilian employers felt they were unqualified for the jobs they had. And we found in the research and listening sessions was what many veterans were looking for were, one, a sense of duty, a calling much like in the military. And a delineated path to advancement. They didn’t want to go from tank commander to Staples manager. They wanted to grow and do something that mattered. That allowed us to continue the relationship in time.
There are many threads have been enriched our journalism. And because of that, we have created a veterans beat. We hired a new person to do. We had one for a long time, found another job. We have one coming in. Not just to talk about veterans hospital issues and Fort Campbell in Tennessee. But talk about the challenges and the success stories. That’s made our coverage a lot better I think because of that.
AUDIENCE: Is that person a veteran or just
DAVID: we worked hard to try to get a veteran. We weren’t able to find a veteran. That would be ideal if we could do that. The last thing I’ll mention since we were talking about that. One series we did last year, we did a lot of listening creating events around affordable housing, a documentary, and a book club that we had at capacity. People wanted to discuss these issues. Why is the community booming? It’s happening all over the country. Cities are booming, but people are feeling left out. They can’t afford the rent and are being pushed out. This is an opportunity to examine those issues in a way that was really real.
And this is the gathering with the gun owners. We have a gun free policy in our building. I was the one who said can you please leave your guns at home? They were all respectful. And by the end of it, they were inviting us to go shooting with them. I have not taken them up yet. This is the veterans group. And it represented veterans from the Vietnam era to the post 9/11 era with their own separate issues. We talked about the NFL protests. The older veterans tended to be very offended while the younger ones said this is what we fought for so they could do that.
And so but it was a really rich conversation with our journalists who got to understand them better. And they got to see our faces. We’re not bad people. We’re not just out to get them. So, that kind of exchange is really good for us. Our next step and big event is a partnership with Lipscomb University. Partnerships are important. Whether it’s your library, the most loyal partner for most of our events. And Lipscomb University which is hosting a symposium on disenfranchised voters.
We have buy in from the Secretary of State and we want to talk about tactics to make voting accessible and as safe as possible for people. Okay. Now I want to talk about the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. This is a neat concept for pop up journalism. It’s taking a folding chair out to an event and inviting people to be part of your community. Even just sitting down. It’s not necessarily a formal way to get a story that day. But rather a way to listen to people’s ideas. And what the BINJ did, they went to Roxbury, a historically African American community in Boston and brought their folding chairs.
At one event, created a chalk drawing of a house like they were in a residence. And people came and sat down and talked about what was on their mind. Some of the games included matching politicians with the corporate sponsors that had given them money to create this awareness, this public engagement awareness that indeed they should be aware of what’s happening. Why aren’t they getting certain resources? Creating an engaged voter and citizen who feels like they are listening. And affordable housing was an important issue for most who attended. It’s and replicable by any news organization. Take a chair or anything and just listen. They’ll allow you to record them and come up with stories.
There was a story that came from the first event. A profile of a guy who was very involved in community activism and trying to rebuild Roxbury.
AMY: The next example that we have comes from the Richland Source in Ohio. This is a really interesting one because the stories actually sort of ran the story that this is regarding ran before the event that they had. But it was a story about infant mortality. Which is a really difficult issue. And the reporter in this case was bless you was trying to find a way to connect with the community, but in a way that was more positive and much more helpful, but more solution oriented which is a theme you see throughout these events and other engagements. She planned what was called a Community Baby Shower.
And there were vendors from all other the area that offered different services and things like that. And invited new and soon to be new moms. I was it was mostly moms that were there. You can see in the picture it was mostly women. I don’t think they excluded men. But the idea was to have that baby shower which then allowed for these women to have access to all of these services. The vendors had access to a whole bunch of people that they could serve.
And the vendors had given a really good review afterward about the how useful this event was in contrast to other events that they have been in. Other, you know, kind of trade show types of situations. Because it was actually the population that they were trying to reach. And so, at this actual event they had set up a listening post which is one way of doing a listening activity. You can find out more if you want to go read the story. But basically it was a microphone they set up in a booth. And they asked them to they asked two very basic questions. One was about sort of what your what advice you would give.
So, for people who already have children, what advice would you give to new parents? And one question was about what their fears were. And so, it was a nice place for them to go and actually talk about this in the sort of context of thinking about, you know, having young children and all of those things. There was an interesting piece of it that kind of came out that is really important for all of these things. Particularly if we’re going to use technology. Is that you need to test your technology again and again and again and again.
They recorded a lot of different voices, but they weren’t actually able to use all of them because there were some technical issues. But as a result, there were not technical issues on everyone. They got I think 50 interviews that were somewhat usable. And they had to figure out how they were going to display the interviews. It was a YouTube video that had all the different voices in it that is also in the story in the link. It’s a really good opportunity for them to think more broadly about their coverage in a way that was more solution oriented on a subject that’s, you know, really difficult for people to talk about.
And that’s one interesting thing is that you, you know, what David was talking about with gun owners and all of these different groups, these conversations are not easy conversations. They are not small talk conversations. They are real conversations about real issues. So, that’s the photo from the baby shower.
And then the last one was done by the Alabama Media Group which is part of Advance. And they have launched what they call a News Deputy Program. It’s using another technology they’re using GroundSource, a technical tool, to basically get more voices from communities that they have traditionally not been great about reaching.
And so and they did this all over the state. So, they were looking for people who could tell them who were basically experts in their community, but who were not necessarily officials. And that’s another big piece of this I think in all of these different experiences is that your we’re used to talking to officials all the time. This is actually talking to people who are not in like the official class. They’re not representing some group or something like that. They’re just people who might be really well connected in their community but not have some sort of official title. And this is a really good way of connecting with them.
And so, they were able to quickly figure out a way to train them on the tool. They did it by Skype because they couldn’t do it in person. So, that was an interesting way of using technology even when you’ve got a large geography. Which is in contrast to what the Boston Institute did where they were actually physically in a space. So, there’s lots of different ways of doing this. And they also realized through this whole experience they needed to work better under tension. So, they had a lot of people sign up at the beginning. People get really excited at the beginning of something. And then people dropped off to a pretty large degree, I think, as time went on.
So, they didn’t think enough at the beginning about how to actually retain and keep people. One of the things that they talked about wanting to do the next time they did it was maybe use games or something to connect people to have there be more of an incentive to keep people engaged and connected.
So, this is a little look at what the interface looked like. And the kind of back and forth of how they were able to give get information about where people lived, how old they were and these sorts of things at the beginning. And they had a database that they basically created out of this material.
So, from all of these things I wanted to sort of highlight some key takeaways and hopefully these will help spark some thoughts for you guys while you’re talking at your tables. But with all of these things there was some element of partnership. Whether it was a physical space, so, the library or other things like that. Or with other groups that were already meeting. You know, with vendors, et cetera. So, partnering and making sure that you’re working with the right kind of partners given which kind of communities you want to work with is really important. Getting out of your comfort zone is sort of the big theme of all of these things. And sort of getting out of, you know, again it’s not about you. It’s about the people you want to talk to and you want to listen to.
Using tech wisely is a really important thing. Some things you can do sort of really low tech. And sometimes you can use high tech to help you. But you have to know how best to use that tech. Again, make sure to do all kinds of testing. But also to make sure that if the communities you’re wanting to talk to don’t have access to that technology then it’s completely useless at that point, right? So, you have to think about who your audience is and who your communities are.
Be mindful of the power dynamics. I think that’s a really important one. We as journalists often don’t realize we have a lot of power when we walk into situations. And we are often looked at as sort of quote, unquote, officials. Particularly by marginalized communities. We need to be very aware of that and act accordingly. That goes back to the sort of be humble. We don’t know everything. We’re there to hear what other people know.
And then the really interesting thing too is show the kind of after effect of showing how the listening changed you. One thing that I talk about a lot in a variety of different ways is true inclusivity requires you to be changed by whoever you’re bringing into the room. You’re not expecting the people to change for you, right?
And so, through these types of activities you also have to act on what you’re hearing. So, in David’s case, right, they were bringing these people in. They didn’t just drop the conversation. They were then trying to figure out ways to keep the conversation going which I think is really important.
DAVID: It is. And one of the things too that we talked about before is the whole notion of the buy in from your team. We thankfully had complete buy in from our top editor who said go forth and do this. And then let me know what’s going on. And he was also very wise not to get involved in the nitty gritty so we could explore and be innovative and creative. Yes, sir?
AUDIENCE: I’m curious, how did you find your participants? How did you do outreach?
DAVID: Sure. With the young Muslims we had developed a relationship with the local Muslim leaders because of the foolish op ed placement. That allowed me to connect with people all over the city. With regards to the gun owners, I called them. As Amy said, the gun owners, you have a very wide reach. And within two days of writing a column saying, hey, we’re looking for gun owners I received about 30 inquiries saying we would like to be part of this.
And we made the group 20, vetted them, and we had bios of every single person that was coming and why they were coming. We asked a series of questions and surveyed them and did a post survey. That was important too. And in preparing a lot of the journalists. There was some trepidation. You know, are they going to be scared of you? I don’t know. But we know enough about they want to connect with us. They want to come to our space and they’re willing to let their guard down.
And that was a huge win. And the fact that we’re still communicating with them to this day is important. With regard to having a champion too, that’s another important thing too. If you have a champion for your efforts, you need someone to sustain it. In the case of our diversity and inclusion, as chair, that’s my ultimate job. But I need to delegate better to other members who are active since the beginning to take this piece of this. Or we’re going to be facilitators or ambassadors for this. The privilege topic that we had, civility is very hard to talk about. I’m working with the Baptist college, the historically African American college. We do a civility program, you, the Tennessean can help to write the rules for it. We’ll do the support and promotion and write the rules and do the support. In this case, we’re using our institutional power to promote the institution that was built by the American Baptist College.
AUDIENCE: Back to the civility conversation, it becomes very interesting having a lot of it just having friends who have been part of in New York and organizations that are not civil whatsoever. But very effective in getting what is required for, I don’t know, several million folks not to die is incredibly important. How would you bring that side of the conversation when so, in converse of all these groups that you’re going after, how do you find marginalized groups on the other end who are not represented in media as well?
DAVID: Yes. A very good friend of mine is a recording artist. They said use your privilege to extend your privilege to others. Acting civility. But we have a right to have a redress of grievances. We have the right to protest government and we need to protest it. Talking about civility, this is not being nice or quiet or deferential. This is about and I think that was successful because the government refused to attend to the needs of people who needed that medication.
AUDIENCE: Totally agree. Yeah. It’s more about the how the framing of the folks that you were mentioning, there’s like in inverse to all of those and how do you like how do you it’s not about balanced news at all. That’s not really a thing.
AMY: Right. At least from my vantage point. I’m not in a newsroom so I don’t have to do these things myself. When I’m working with different people I think the point is that gun owners, for example, are not the audience that they’re going after. There’s an understanding that there are multiple communities, right? And there are multiple communities that have been marginalized in different ways. And the conversations that you need to have with them may be different. I’m really curious and I don’t know if David has thought about this, and maybe this is something you guys can talk about at your table. Like how or whether journalists can play a role in getting communities to talk together as opposed to hearing from them individually and listening to them individually?
I mean, that’s a really hard, hard thing to do. But it first starts with being able to have a closer relationship. And I think there have been a lot of listening sessions throughout this, and one more later today, I think. And a lot of it is about relationships. It’s about seeing people for people and hearing people out. And I think that’s where understanding that there are multiple audiences that we all need to work on. It really plays a big role. That you’re not done when you check the box of whatever, you know, whichever community that you had this. And that’s one of the things about David’s work, at least. Because I know a little bit more about it. Is that it’s ongoing, right? So, the fact that there’s a diversity and inclusion task force means that the work continues. It’s not a one off thing. That’s an important piece of doing good listening. It’s not a check the box kind of thing. It requires a lot of time and effort and you’re going to keep working on it over time.
DAVID: And about our voters conversation, I’m anxious. What if they don’t show up? The people we want to vote and register, what if they don’t care enough to come in? That’s making me anxious about the event. But we work with the creators to make safe spaces. I used to have a negative reaction to safe spaces as a journalists. I said all public spaces need to be open. But I see that they need to have a comfortable space. It’s an evolution for me. Sometimes we’ll bring people to the Tennessean. And it’s nice because many have never been to the newsroom or seen the presses. But a neutral space like the library or go into the community and be vulnerable as journalists. And it’s going to take a long time, I think.
But at least people answer the call when I pick up the phone. That’s a nice thing.
AMY: We are all needing to learn. This is a nice segue. We are all students. This is from the hotel lobby. I don’t know if you saw it. But we can all learn from each other. I want you to get together with your groups and think about concrete ways that you can maybe with inspiration from the things we talked about or things that you’re already doing to talk amongst yourselves about concrete ways that you can start to reach out to some of those communities that you mentioned. What are some things that you can do? Technology things you can do? In person things you can do? Small group, large group, et cetera, et cetera. We want you to talk in your groups and ultimately we want you to come up with your top three ideas so that we can share that out with everybody.
And if you can write on post its, that would be great because then we can put them up and do a little bit of transcription afterward.
DAVID: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for discussing in your groups. We’re going to have the sharing out moment now. In terms of nor top three ideas. Why don’t we start with this table? And if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of your top three.
AUDIENCE: The one that I liked the most that Matt said, is to take an ice cream truck around. And hand out ice cream and also talk to people. And he said he does not a journalistic organization. But that was great.
AMY: That’s really good on a hot day.
AUDIENCE: Just in general, I was taken by the baby shower story making an event that was intrinsically useful to gather a community. And saying while you’re here, you can spend some time with us. Talking about diversity in the newsroom, which is commonly talked about. But that’s so important. And just now we were talking about the difference between the question of not maybe folks I will try to keep it tight. When you’re listening and telling people stories, how do you take their concerns about how the story is told in their accounts or write a review that you might not typically give in a journalistic setting. But setting a baseline story about a broader community about how this marginalized community fits in, how do you make sure you don’t misrepresent them? And related, how do you make sure that potential future coverage that they would take issue with doesn’t undermine the relationship you have been building when you have to tell a story for journalistic reasons.
DAVID: Thank you. Table two.
Yes, so, like I feel like they are very useful for creating an engaging with folks. Where everybody is an expert. And there’s nobody there who is like driving the conversation or the authority figure. Having ground rules for participation. Really important to make sure that people are comfortable and that they ask permission before doing anything. Or like photography, sharing anything that might be sensitive. Having experienced people who are facilitating is if you are like not a someone who helps shape the conversation and there’s rocks in the stream, essentially, and having the conversation.
AUDIENCE: One other that we didn’t get a chance on but starting with the service. What am I looking at in the community? What can I do for this community? Like I have things that they don’t have like time to look into the information and to fact check it and to get it to people. So, if you start asking people. How can we help you?
DAVID: To his point, humility. This table.
AUDIENCE: All right. I wrote things down. Okay. One of them was, you know, the listening opportunities by inviting people into the process rather than making them feel like they’re just one cog in the process. Giving people access to the whole thing. And then being in the places where different communities need to be and want to be rather than expecting them to come out. Forging relationships with the people in the organization already serving those communities so we start with the people you can find so that you can get, you know, have those conversations with people that might be harder to connect to right away and have a better understanding.
And just being out in the world and listening is a way. I have a really good example, most of the reporters are based in the city but not in the suburbs. But most of the community they’re needing to speak to is not based in the city. It’s putting yourself there.
DAVID: Being where they are, being humble and being of service and also being useful. What can we do? Those are all great points when it comes to communities that see us in a manner. But those relationships can be enriched and repaired if there are times where, you know, we made an error. As a newspaper, sometimes you have positions that really get people angry. And one of the things that’s very healing at the time is going deliberately out to people and saying we want your voice too. If you want to disagree with us and criticize us, that’s fine. And asking in very humble ways is very effective.
AMY: So, I think one other thing that sort of kind of come up is sometimes we have to apologize. Like when we screw up, we’re not very good about apologizing. We might correct something but correcting something is not the same as apologizing. And I think that’s where David’s experience with the pro/con, you know, kind of comes out. That you actually have to say you know what? We screwed up. Because that actually engenders trust when you can be able to say that. And then the next part of that is, and I’m going to try to do better next time.
And then you can ask how am I going to do that the next time? Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Many this may be completely off. You can be like, that’s off. Which is just in the context of, you know, President of the United States saying, “Fake news,” perhaps.
AUDIENCE: Your research and also just your experience in the local realm. What have you seen about apologizing and correcting, taking responsibility when we get things wrong in an environment in which there’s so much sensitivity and so much distrust. I imagine that being local and being in the community makes it easier to make a mistake and apologize for it and build trust as a result that have. But I’m just curious if you have some sort of insight into that being true? Or whether we’re just operating in such madness at the national level.
DAVID: We changed our correction policy shortly after the election so the corrections don’t show up at the bottom. They show up at the top. It’s very embarrassing for a journalism to have that happen. The message is, please don’t screw up. Be good on accuracy. And take ownership. Nashville Nashville is a very blue county in a red state. I have been traveling to different communities talking to rotary clubs, civic organizations. There’s a place about 70 miles away, a small town. I did my presentation. We had fried chicken, cherry pie. All the things you want. Wonderful things. And after I finished my presentation, a gentleman stood up and said, why should we trust you?
It was a wonderful question. I’m thankful he asked me. Instead of yelling fake news. I told him about the efforts and help him understand. You guys really care out our communities. It’s not just about our survival, but our mission.
AUDIENCE: On the idea of apology. And I’m sure everyone in the room is aware that at work and that also more and more aware of it. A couple of years ago, it’s been beaten into your head. This idea of owning what you’ve done as opposed to I think the way I was finally able to really feel it is with the #MeToo movement. Feel it in a way we didn’t fully understand from the Black Lives Matter. I felt that I was fully engaged in supporting of that. Hearing the #MeToo movement and some very well meaning then would say I apologize. I’m sorry. I made you feel uncomfortable or something.
Basically, they’re not owning what they did. They’re saying, I am sorry you got upset. Say, hey, it’s like, even on a personal level this is not a recent ex who is a good human being would say I’m sorry what I said bothered you. It’s like, why not be sorry for what you said? But, you know, and like that finally clicked for me. It’s not that I was being incentive or consciously being incentive to the concerns of people of color or transgender people. I just it I think sometimes takes a personal clicking for you to get it. Or maybe you’re just better about the personal connection than I am.
But, no, I’m not trying to stop you from saying you’re sorry at any level. But it’s like owning that. I think owning it as journalists takes humility because I could say I’m sorry for not actually understanding your community’s situation the way I thought I did. But it’s more like, oh, I did not understand it. And now I’m going to get to like I think once you own it own it, you can get to a higher level rather than being like, oh, man. I just can’t do anything right with this group. I just can’t. Actually, I think just the very action of truly owning it and not thinking it’s just like they’re responding to somebody’s response, but that you’ve actually done something I think is a key thing for journalists and humans. And this idea.
And I think back to what we were talking in our small group with civility versus like being polite. You know, it’s like this idea of really listening and hearing people who have real issues, you know? Maybe I’m kind of I just feel like this ownership. People aren’t owning things. And when you don’t take the time to first own it, you’re never going to apologize.
AMY: I think that goes into something we were talking about a little bit earlier. Understanding when you walk into communities that you’ve neglected or marginalized that you can’t expect that you’re being seen with a clean slate. That maybe the first thing you have to say is, we’ve screwed up. Like we took a look. And some of that comes with you can do an audit or whatever it is, right? To actually come up with real data that you can show yourself. Sometimes that’s what you need to do. In order to be able to say, we’ve screwed up. And we understand that we’ve screwed up and we’re trying to do better. Right?
And that’s actually owning it. And not putting it on the community that it’s their problem that we messed up.
AUDIENCE: Or that they need to tell us what to do. It’s like owning it makes you also responsible for it.
DAVID: One example recently. Nashville is one of the highest per capita of Kurdish Americans in the United States. Especially after the 1991 a few years ago there was a gentleman of Kurdish descent who became a police officer. The community was behind him. Recently he was arrested for being involved in gang activity. And the first reaction of the Kurdish community who we covered extensively was, how could you put it I don’t know if it appeared on the front page. How could you report on that? He’s a hero to us. It’s difficult. Here’s a role model and who we trust and love. And he was torn down in the press for something that he later it’s one of those challenging things that’s gray. An apology might not work. Just say, we have to be true to the fact. And it’s going to set back a little bit that progress that we have been moving forward. Especially now.
AMY: So, we have one more question here. We don’t have a ton of time. But one of the things that has been talked about a lot, and I know Jen has written a little bit about this, is basically sort of, you know, often we have to make a case for why we would spend time doing these types of activities. Right? Because there’s so much other work that needs to be done. Why would we take all of this time to go just hear somebody and listen to somebody and not a story of it. That might be an editor type of knee jerk reaction.
The question becomes of how can you measure outcomes from these types of activities? And that means not just successes, but how do you measure when you failed, right? How can you figure out that like something didn’t work? And so, we wanted you guys to spend a little bit of time at your tables thinking about ways that you could actually measure success and measure outcomes with listening types of activities.
DAVID: Okay, in the interest of time. Wrap this up and quick reporting. Thank you so much for the conversations you have had. I hope you’ll indulge us with a few minutes past time. Do a quick reporting over here and do all the thank yous after that. Start on this side first.
AUDIENCE: Okay. Having a presence of people from these different communities that we have been trying to listen to. But in stories that aren’t just about those communities. So, like, talking to foster parents and regular education reporting. There’s a special story about the foster system. A shift in coverage and topics that you can see how we changed our coverage on these types of things. And then also the community’s response to how they are being represented in our coverage.
AUDIENCE: Along those same lines. Qualitative surveys before and after how do you feel this organization understands you? Represents you? Do you feel heard? How did we do? And showing some sort of needle moving that a community or groups poof them community. Going from not really connected to feeling connected.
DAVID: That’s a great idea with the surveys and feeling connected. Amy and I were talking about while you were talking that after the apology, what’s the action we’re going to take and show the community we have actually done something better.
AUDIENCE: This might be a little difficult, but one thing that’s really interesting. What’s important is the length of the relationship. Hard to measure in the short term. But can you look back in ten years and say this is something you have built over time and it’s between people. Another one that I didn’t hear yet, do others copy it? So, is this something that is successful enough that you see others in the region and the area starting to follow you on.
AMY: That’s a good point.
DAVID: Non profit journalism, take our ideas. Any other wrap up statements or thoughts? All right. Over to Amy.
AMY: So, in the slides we’ve got links to the four essays from the four examples so you can read more deeply about them. And they also I think most of them actually have the email addresses the people who were involved. So, if you want to directly contact those people and say, how did you do this? Do you have a playbook? It’s in there or we can connect you.
We have another report that we recently put out. Kim Bui who has been at SRCCON a couple times, she wrote something on the empathetic newsroom. Basically how journalists can employ empathy to cover communities. Similar in the vein to listening. And that’s in there. And we have a report coming soon from Cole Goins that comes from the summit in Nashville about creating a culture of listening. It’s not out. It was supposed to be out before the session. There was a little delay.
We have a place on the website for people to sign up to receive the report when it come out and there’s a video on there about sort of what happened that day at the summit if you want to learn about that. The sign up is on there as well. David put up links to the work that kind of came as a result of their listening efforts. And then, of course, you can reach out to us.
This is our email addresses and our Twitter handles as well. So we really thank you guys for being here. We know that everybody in the room really brings something and are experts. We said that earlier. Treating people as experts is really important. And it’s that kind of thing that I think you guys can do when you go back into your communities as well. So, hopefully you got something out of that and have some things you can take back to your newsrooms. And we’ll be around for a little while if you want to chat with us at all. I did want to say one little thing about trust, to your question.
We have done some surveys. Not, I think, after the election. But we have done surveys that show that when you do sort of corrections and apologies and sort of own up to the mistakes, that engender trust. Now, again, you’re doing it in a different environment and all the different things that you were alluding to. But generally the feeling is that those types of activities do actually engender trust. The more that you actually talk to your communities, the more trust there tends to be. It’s a lot easier on the local level. I can say that definitely because you might run into the people, face to face even that you’re covering more so than in the national press.
But we have a lot of different if you want to go around our website, go and see. We have done a lot of different studies on trust. But thank you all for being here.
[ Applause ]