Research Examines the Concept of Engagement in Journalism

  • By Amy Dunkin

Across the news industry, organizations large and small, commercial and nonprofit, single issue and daily news are experimenting with “engagement.” Audience engagement. Engaged journalism. Engagement editors and specialists. Engaging for trust. And the list goes on.

But what is engagement? Why are organizations experimenting with it and to what effect?

Impact Architects set out to answer these questions through a four-month research project commissioned by the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.

It’s called “Engaged Journalism: Practices for Building Trust, Generating Revenue, and Fostering Civic Engagement” and features case studies of four organizations: ProPublica, Free Press, McClatchy, and Outlier Media.

The research found evidence to support that engaged journalism:

  • Increases audience trust in journalists and journalism organizations
  • Leads to audience willingness to lend financial support to journalism
  • Results in audiences being more civically engaged in their communities

In the end, engaged journalism is just good journalism. It’s cultivating and listening to sources throughout the community, rather than in niche sectors or in the upper echelons of power. It’s producing hard-hitting, moving, and accurate stories that are relevant to community members and reflect their lived realities and meet their needs. And it’s understanding that journalism — whether it’s for profit or not — is a public service and as such, must respect and include the public in its processes and practices.