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Putting community at the heart of journalism: Event by The Local

How can newsrooms involve readers to strengthen communities and rebuild trust in news media? That was the question at the heart of an event hosted by The Local for journalists and media professionals in Sweden working with engaged journalism.

Putting community at the heart of journalism: Event by The Local
The event was held at The Local's new office in Stockholm. Photo: Madeline Tersigni

The event was part of The Local's work with the European Journalism Centre's Engaged Journalism Accelerator, a programme supporting community-driven journalism across Europe through grants, coaching, mentoring, and events. The Local's Europe Editor Catherine Edwards represents Sweden as one of six members of the Accelerator Ambassador Network, with the role of helping to raise the profile of engaged journalism and facilitating collaboration between people working in this field.

Engagement has been central to The Local's strategy, particularly since launching our Membership programme, and elsewhere in Sweden newsrooms are successfully innovating by involving readers more in journalism – with great results.

Journalists discussed how to work with community-driven journalism in Sweden. Photo: Madeline Tersigni

At the June event, held at The Local's new office in Stockholm, we began with a mingle over breakfast before Catherine gave an introduction to the concept of engaged journalism, explaining some of the key benefits of community involvement. These include building loyalty, giving communities the stories they want, and offering more diverse perspectives. 

The Local Sweden's Editor Emma Löfgren explained how The Local has worked with engagement, for example through social media groups, 'Reader Voices' articles, offline events, newsletters and surveys.

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Participants shared their own ideas and experiences. Photo: Madeline Tersigni

We also heard from external speaker and journalist Jenny Sköld, co-founder of the Mobile Stories platform which allows children and young people to produce their own news articles following Swedish press ethics.

Jenny Sköld spoke about how the Mobile Stories platform helps young people understand journalism. Photo: Madeline Tersigni

Through workshop events, participants discussed three central questions about engagement: How can we get to know our communities better? How can our communities contribute to reporting and storytelling? How can offline events build community?

Participants shared their own experiences and ideas as well as looking at case studies from the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, including Spanish fact-checking operation which asked their users what their 'superpowers' were, and the UK-based Bristol Cable which invited over 100 members to its annual meeting.

The Local's social media manager Matt Hope wrote down some of the best engaged journalism ideas. Photo: Madeline Tersigni

We spoke about the importance of understanding who the members of our communities are, by using data, reader surveys, and going to the spaces where readers are, whether online or in real life.

“Members of the community don't necessarily have any of the skills they need for storytelling, but what they might have is the story,” one participant said. “If you can build a relationship with them, you can help them tell it.”

There will be a second event in September, with details still to be confirmed, so please get in touch if you would like to receive more information about this nearer the time.

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