Last week the American Press Institute published my study on best practices in audience engagement in journalism. It was the culmination of a lot of work I loved doing, and lessons I took away from conversations with 25 people around the industry who seem to have pieces of this puzzle figured out.
Here’s the report on API’s website — “The best ways to build audience and relevance by listening to and engaging your community.”
Monica Guzman, a 2016 Nieman Fellow and columnist for the Seattle Times, CJR and others, released a terrific new report on community engagement. Guzman helpfully begins by defining the terms of the debate – engagement, audience, community and others – and draws on concrete examples, mostly from local newsrooms around the country. She shows clearly how smart engagement strategies are helping shift newsrooms towards more community support and strengthening the reporting process. She writes that for journalism “the real product is the relationship” between newsrooms and communities. “At its most powerful, engagement is not a layer to add on top of conventional journalistic practice, but a firmer foundation that links journalism more closely with the people it aims to serve.” But one of the best things about Guzman’s report is how concretely and immediately useful it is for newsrooms of any size.
Here’s how Matt Carroll at MIT (and former Boston Globe “Spotlight” reporter) described it in his weekly newsletter, 3 to Read:
How to build audiences by engaging your community: The term, “building engagement”, is one of the most over-used in journalism, to the point it means everything to nearly nothing. But here comes a thoughtful, well-researched series of stories by Monica Guzman for the American Press Institute on practical steps newsrooms can take for, yes, building engagement. A good read.
And some more good feedback, adapted from Twitter:
“Every journalist should read this. We must close the distance with our audiences.” – Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Connie Schultz
“So much good stuff from Monica Guzman here. I’m taking tons of notes about ideas I want to try.” – Joy Mayer, engagement strategist and Poynter adjunct faculty
“If you’re steeped in listening to your audience — or new to the concept — you’ll value Monica Guzman’s API paper.” – Tom Rosenstiel, author and executive director of the American Press Institute (and one of my editors)
“Every editor should read Monica Guzman’s report on engaging communities.” – Debra Adams Simmons, vice president of news development at Advance Local and former editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This report by Monica Guzman is a hugely valuable contribution to the conversation about community engagement in news.” – Josh Stearns, director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
“…All of my favorite things written about this stuff in one place. So handy and foundational.” – Kelsey Proud, digital innovation editor at St. Louis Public Radio
As I told my sources in the study when I let them know the study was up, I hope the report inspires people in the industry to think more creatively about what they can do with, and not just for, their audiences. It’s something I really care about, and will keep working for.