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This is a weekly newsletter for Gather, a project + platform to support community-minded journalists and other engagement professionals. We’d love your feedback. What's useful about this newsletter? What's missing? Let us know

In this week's newsletter:

  • POWER IN NUMBERS: How callouts, surveys, and related engagement strategies build ProPublica's foundation for reporting.

  • JOB ALERT: The Washington Post is looking for an Audience Embed Editor.

  • COMMUNITY UPDATES: A 3/12 webinar on coronavirus coverage, what newsrooms need to focus on for real diversity, equity, and inclusion changes, and TikTok for news orgs.

  • HOT READ: "AAJA Calls on News Organizations to Exercise Care in Coverage of the Coronavirus Outbreak."

  • INTROS: Meet Taylor Blatchford, News Producer at The Seattle Times.

An analogy for ProPublica’s people-powered journalism

Many of us involved with Gather have probably struggled to explain our jobs, our goals and how what we do differs from more traditional journalism.

I read something last week that made me consider engaged journalism in a new way. In a piece for Nieman Lab, Sarah Scire wrote about the ways ProPublica’s work stands on a foundation of engagement. Their approach to engagement reporting involves strategies that are becoming routine in a lot of newsrooms — most notably callout and surveys. 

But I think it’s safe to say that most newsrooms don’t actually build their work around what they hear in those callouts and surveys the way ProPublica does. Crowdsourcing is often used to find sources. It’s much less often used to truly guide the entire reporting ship. 

In the Nieman piece, engagement editor Ariana Tobin describes the power of ProPublica’s people-powered journalism, in which a bunch of individual people combine to alert the newsroom to important issues. She said that when a whole lot of people point to the same big systemic harm, for example, those voices add up to solid evidence that the issue is worth looking into. 

Tobin also used a courtroom analogy: “There’s all different kinds of lawsuits. We’re sort of the class action of an investigative story, harnessing and channeling the power in numbers.”

Harnessing and channeling power. What an eloquent way to look at our work. 

Also at play is the basic idea that engagement should be part of an authentic feedback loop. As laid out in a piece by Hearken’s Jennifer Brandel: “Engagement happens when members of the public are responsive to newsrooms, and newsrooms are in turn responsive to members of the public.”

To what extent are you inviting the people you aim to serve to actually influence your work? Where’s your evidence that they’re actually doing it?

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

Question: Who do you want to hear from about ethics?

A few weeks ago, we announced the topics for our upcoming video chats about the ethics of engaged journalism. We know this is a topic many of you care deeply about. We could now use your thoughts on whose experience and expertise should help guide the conversations.

Who comes to mind as thought leaders and experts in these areas?

  • Week of 3/30: Sharing and Using User Content
    • For example: When to share social posts in journalism coverage; when to ask to share content from private Facebook groups; does tagging your news org equal permission to share, etc.
  • Week of 4/13: Community Members Guiding Editorial Decisions
    • For example: Sharing editorial decision-making with outside collaborators; community members acting as fact-checkers in conversation spaces; where's the line between co-creation and editorial power, etc.
  • Week of 4/27: Economic Exchange Between the Newsroom and Community
    • For example: Compensating community members for participating in conversations or providing feedback; paying people for performing aspects of journalism; partnering with local organizations to fundraise for engagement work, etc.

Read more details about these chats here. And then please submit suggestions to Lynn Walsh (the Society of Professional Journalists’ current Ethics Chair) at and include a couple of sentences explaining why you think they would be a good fit for that chat topic.

Lightning Chats

Discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study at Gather's video lightning chats. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal. Here's what's coming up:
  • Thursday, March 19, 1pm-2pm ET // Newsroom analytics for reporters: How can journalists who work with data and metrics help the rest of the newsroom learn from the insights gained? How can we turn numbers into stories that help journalists make decisions? In this special hour-long video chat, hear from these folks about their experiences:
    • Jessica Lee Martin, Audience development and engagement for CityLab at Bloomberg
    • Josh Awtry, Senior Director for News Strategy at the USA TODAY Network
    • Emma Carew Grovum, product strategy and digital skills consultant
    • Cory Brown, audience insights consultant

      What are your metrics questions for the hosts? Submit them here.

      Join us on Zoom at 1pm ET / 10am PT for a 60-minute conversation. Click here to add this to your Google Calendar.

Jobs, Fellowships, and Funding

Shoutout to Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn for posting this opportunity! (She's also the Community Editor at the Post.) Check out the #jobsandfunding Slack to see what other opportunities Gatherers are sharing.

Audience Embed Editor, The Washington Post: "The position has two key functions. The first is working with newsroom leaders to brainstorm, research and test new coverage approaches. The team conducts short- and long-term experiments to determine the viability of the ideas, which includes in-depth research that will help editors create prototypes for testing on internal and external platforms. The other function is to embed with one of our main news sections to research and identify how to improve existing coverage areas." Deadline: March 29. Location: Washington, DC.

Community Updates

The Gather Slack is the thriving hub of our community, where we brainstorm together, ask for and offer advice, and connect with each other. Join here.

Meet Taylor Blatchford, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Taylor Blatchford

What you do: Work on the digital audience team at The Seattle Times and write The Lead, an independent weekly newsletter for student journalists.

Why you’re on Gather: For the conversations! It's an incredibly helpful group of people, and I'm always amazed by how generous other journalists are in sharing ideas, advice and strategies. I've learned so much and brought ideas from these conversations into our newsroom.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: How engagement journalists at other publications build engagement strategies around projects, especially with investigative journalism. I want to help our reporters involve our readers throughout the reporting process, not as an afterthought at the end of a story.

One thing you have to share on Gather: Examples of innovative work student journalists are doing around the country. I've talked with lots of amazing students in the last year and a half of writing The Lead, and it makes me excited for the future of journalism.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: I love getting emails back from students about The Lead, whether a particular issue was especially helpful or they just want to share a big project that finally published. Many of the ideas for the newsletter came from resources classmates and I wish we'd had in college, so it's rewarding to hear that it's resonating with students. These connections make the time commitment of writing a weekly newsletter outside of my full-time job worth it.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? Working on a web production/engagement team during a college internship showed me how essential those roles are. Before that I'd been a reporter and editor, and viewed social media and audience engagement as nice, but secondary, parts of journalism. After that internship I saw the structure of newsrooms with new eyes — even if you write the best story with stunning visuals, its impact will be limited if you aren't able to reach the right audiences.
After that internship I took a participatory journalism class that Joy had founded at Mizzou, and then was a TA for that class the next semester. Engaging in person and online with community members in Columbia, Missouri, was a great way to apply the ideas we were learning in class. That experience led to my job at the Times after college.

Would you rather be at the beach or the mountains? I'm lucky that living in Seattle gives me both options, but having grown up in the Denver area, the mountains will always be my happy place.

Links for ways to connect with you.
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