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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:

  • ONA CHAT #1: What we learned from ONA Finalists SCPR and WITF last week.

  • SURVEY RECAP: What challenges does our Gather community face?

  • JOB ALERT: The Texas Tribune is looking for a Social Media Producer.

  • HOT READ: Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford released a report on how the mainstream media can reach the under-35s.

  • INTROS: Meet Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener.

Behind the scenes of next-level engagement work at SCPR and WITF

In a series of video chats, we’re learning from the finalists in the first-ever ONA Gather Award in Engaged Journalism. Winners will be announced at the ONA conference in New Orleans on Sept. 14.

Last week, Ashley Alvarado talked about Southern California Public Radio’s engagement work nominated under the “Portfolio” category, and Cara Williams Fry and Lisa Wardle talked about WITF’s nominated project, “Three Mile Island Accident’s 40th Anniversary.”

To read about the submitted work and how it came together, see the full notes and the video replay on Gather. (As always, you’ll need to be signed in for the link to work. If you don’t have a login, request one here.)

Here are two highlights from the chat. (Answers are not verbatim quotes.)

Question: What have you learned about incorporating engagement into your newsroom’s workflow and getting buy-in for the work?

Ashley, on getting buy-in: Identify the metrics that matter to constituents within the newsroom. This reporting gets us more loyal, local readers and more unique visitors. It’s not just soft science — it helps accomplish newsroom goals. To get buy-in, describe the work you want to get done by talking about how it supports others’ work. Also, celebrating success matters. There’s an impact channel on the newsroom Slack. Build a culture of success and support.

Cara, on engagement workflows: We’ve traditionally been broadcasters, tending to tell people the stories we wanted to tell. This time, we weren’t locked in. Users’ stories became our stories. We worked on a process for the feedback loops. People got instant responses when they submitted a story. Whenever one of those stories aired, all participants got an email so they could find it. This was a successful listening project for us. 

Question: What are you looking forward to next, in terms of engagement work?

Cara: Election 2020. Pennsylvania will be one of the critical states. There are so many people in between the tentpole cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and PA Post really wants to be a statewide newsroom. They’re embedding reporters in six communities for six weeks at a time. Reporters will return to the newsroom and write, then go back to their communities for another six weeks to listen and answer questions. 

Ashley: This is the first fiscal year that engagement is part of every reporter’s requirements. We’re also building a website to help Angelenos see how the census would affect their day-to-day lives, and we’re doing a training & collaboration with ethnic and other language media and stakeholders on how to talk about the census. 

Join us Sept. 5 (tomorrow) and Sept. 10 for the remaining two chats with finalists. See the Lightning Chats section below for details.

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

Survey highlight: What challenges does our community face?

This summer, we asked you to tell us about yourself, how you use Gather and how you’d like to see this community evolve. Out of 1,063 of you who have logged into the Gather Slack and 1,733 of you who subscribe to this newsletter (both numbers as of Monday of this week), 90 of you filled out the questionnaire. Thank you! 

The Gather team and steering committee is discussing how best to respond to the themes from the responses. Each week for awhile, we’ll share some highlights from what we learned. 

We asked you about what roadblocks you face in your day-to-day work. Here are the top five: 

  1. Organizational culture: Getting buy-in from higher-ups and colleagues. Dealing with skepticism, inertia or resistance to change.
  2. Time: Finding time to do the work and also to experiment and grow your skills.
  3. Money: Finding funding to make the work possible.
  4. Prioritizing: Overcoming a lack of clarity or focus in deciding what’s most important.
  5. Staffing: Trying to do what needs to be done with a small team.

If you have suggestions for how Gather could help with these issues or would like to share your own experiences, respond to this email or send a note to Joy Mayer at


Lightning Chats

Lightning chats are 30-minute video chats in which we (and by that we mean anyone!) discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study. Peruse our archive of chats (including video replays) on Gather. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal.

Here's what coming up:
  • TOMORROW! Thursday, Sept. 5, 1:30-2:30 pm ET // Darryl Holliday will talk about City Bureau’s nominated project,, and Megan Lucero will share more about Bureau Local’s engagement work nominated under the “Portfolio” category. Join the meeting on Zoom, and find additional connection details in this calendar event.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2 pm-3 pm ET // Eve Samples and Leah Voss will talk about USA TODAY Florida’s nominated project, “Florida Voices,” and Lauren Katz will share more about Vox’s nominated project, “Hospitals Kept ER Fees Secret. We Worked with Patients to Uncover Them.” Join the meeting on Zoom, and find additional connection details in this calendar event.

Jobs, Fellowships, and Funding

Check out our full list of jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities on Gather, and let us know what we're missing.

Social Media Producer, The Texas Tribune: “We’re looking for someone who is obsessed with the news. You know what to share, and what not to share — especially when a sketchy story flies across your Twitter feed. You’re someone who can take an obscure policy development and explain why it matters in 280 characters or less. Our social media producer is a journalist who uses our social feeds to write, edit and report the news to different audiences with different needs." Bonus: The Texas Tribune is also hiring an Audience Analyst.

Community Updates

If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Seriously. Join here.
  • Got a business idea? Anika Anand, the new director of programming for LION Publishers, wants advice from people who’ve considered starting their own local media business. She’s creating a resource guide and wants to make sure it’s useful. Email Anika at or join the conversation on Slack
  • Paywall complaints for curators: How can a newsletter that curates news from many platforms warn readers they might hit a paywall? How can they encourage financial support for journalists while also recognizing that their readers won’t pay for content in every publication they link to? Mike McPhate asked the question and heard quite a few ideas. Join the conversation on Slack.
  • Launching a Facebook group: How fast is it reasonable to expect a new Facebook group to grow? And how do you build conversation from scratch? Eric Falquero got a lot of advice and perspective from experienced Gatherers when he asked those questions. Join the conversation on Slack.
  • A Gather guide to ONA 19: Going to ONA in New Orleans next week? Or just wish you were? We’re inviting you to tell us which sessions you’re most excited about, then follow along from afar as people share highlights from the event. Join the #ona19 channel on Slack.
  • Hot Read: "Mainstream media need to make news more accessible more relevant and entertaining to attract next generation of consumers" by The Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford. (This is the Gather community's most-shared story on Twitter this week. Look for other 'hot reads' in Friday's Nuzzel newsletter and in the #reads channel on the Gather Slack.)

Meet Phillip Smith, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Phillip Smith

What you do: For more than two decades I have helped forward-thinking, public-service newsrooms grow their audience and make more money. Last year, I launched a new undertaking to produce workshops and intense trainings that help to bring news startups to life. My ambition is to work with diverse founders who are leaving newsrooms to start audience-pay information businesses, and helping those founders reach financial sustainability.

Why you’re on Gather: I’m on Gather to learn from the pros because -- 20+ years into my career -- there are still days I feel like a complete novice at this stuff.
One thing you want to learn on Gather: How to think differently and critically about the role of the “audience” in relation to journalism.

One thing you have to share on Gather: Along with Alexandra Smith, I’m aiming to share case studies, creative jam sessions, and more in the newly minted #PaidAcquisition channel on Slack. If you’re passionate about growth and acquisition and willing to actively contribute, please join us.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: The people who reach out to me almost every day about their new journalism startups, or startup ambitions, are what keeps me going.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? Being the photo editor for my high school yearbook, a stringer for a college newspaper, followed by my first overseas press junket in 1996. From that point, there was no looking back.

Would you rather give up social media or coffee for a week? Social media, no question. Like too many 40+ hipsters, I am a coffee snob and have a crazy-bad espresso habit.

Links for ways to connect with you:
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