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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:

  • NEW INSIGHTS: The latest Agora Journalism Center Report illuminates what it takes for newsrooms to be “engagement ready.”

  • CASE STUDY: How did a German news site encourage open dialogue between readers with opposing views? Set them up on "blind dates" of course.

  • JOB ALERT: KPCC-LAist is looking for an engagement producer to focus on early childhood education and development in L.A. County.

  • HOT READ: The Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan grades the media on midterm election coverage.

  • INTROS: Meet Sam Hoisington, the social media editor for InsideClimate News.

What makes an organization "engagement ready"?

We’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few months, through conversations here on Gather and beyond. Practitioners who do engagement are encountering both inspiration and challenges. Along the way, they are learning about the elements required for practicing engagement deeply and well.

A new Agora Journalism Center report, “Putting Engagement to Work”, illuminates some of these engagement-readiness challenges. Based on research led by our first Agora Center post-doctoral fellow, Thomas R. Schmidt, the report examines how newsrooms across the country are pursuing audience engagement using the tools and methods provided by the company Hearken.

Through interviews with 28 reporters and editors at 15 newsrooms of varying sizes, platforms, and geographic locations, the report examines how media outlets are adapting their work to Hearken’s “people-powered journalism” model. You can read about the report in this short essay on Medium—one of three essays we’ll release this week. You can read the full report here.

As many Gatherers know, Hearken has emerged as a leading engagement innovator, both guiding and challenging newsrooms to pursue a deeper approach to audience engagement. Our goal in this report is to examine how newsrooms are taking up the challenge—and possibly encountering obstacles or resistance—to involve the public at every stage of the news production process.

We find, among other things, that resource constraints and competing organizational priorities produce variations in the way outlets pursue “public-powered” news within their particular contexts. We also find a heartening commitment across these outlets to more deeply engage with the communities they serve. In the end, the newsrooms we interviewed spoke positively about Hearken, particularly the engagement consulting it provides, and all reported at least some measurable success using it. And importantly, those who reported initial skepticism about involving the public in the news process also said that their attitudes became more positive after trying it—an important but often overlooked metric of engagement success.

We think these insights come at an opportune time, as the news industry is looking for better ways to build relationships and trust with the communities they serve. We welcome your thoughts on the future of news and the developments outlined in this Agora Report.

Regina G. Lawrence, Agora Journalism Center director

Case Study: How ZEIT Online Got Germany Talking

By Riley Stevenson

In 2017, the German news organization ZEIT Online decided it wanted change the way it communicated with readers—especially readers with diverse opinions. Following a surge of populist movements in Europe, the need to engage with the public felt acute. The team wondered, “Could someone develop a dating platform for political debates?”

To find out, ZEIT Online launched a project called Germany Talks. It wasn’t quite Tinder; rather, ZEIT Online organized a mass meetup event, where participants sat down with people from different ideological beliefs to talk politics. By the end of the project, 1,200 people engaged in face-to-face conversation with someone they’d never met before.

Read the case study on Gather.

You can now publicly share the 94 case studies and featured projects on Gather with friends and colleagues. Take a look through, and then recommend projects you’d like to see us dig into.

Lightning Chats

Discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study at Gather's lightning chats. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal. Here's what's coming up:
  • Nov. 29 // Applying for Engagement Jobs: What story should you tell about yourself? What format should your portfolio take? What pitfalls should you avoid, especially when talking to hiring editors who don't specialize in engagement? Bring your questions and tips. Join us on Zoom at 2pm ET / 11am PT for a 30-minute conversation. Click here to add this to your Google Calendar.

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. Here's what's new this week:
  • Engagement Producer, Early Childhood Education, KPCC-LAist: "Research shows that critical brain development occurs before a child enters kindergarten. We are building an engaged journalism strategy dedicated to informing, connecting, and empowering a community of low- and middle-income L.A. County parents and caregivers of children ages 0-5 in specific neighborhoods or demographics, while continuing to inform and educate our existing broadcast audio and digital audiences on ECED topics. This will include in-person events, source development, and designing and executing nontraditional distribution models.

    SCPR seeks a dedicated engagement producer-reporter who will facilitate the engaged journalism work and monitor whether we are meeting benchmarks set for the news service, as well as for our broadcast audio and digital stories, which will continue as before on topics of importance to our broader audiences. This position is in addition to the early childhood education and development reporter position." Learn more.

Community Updates

If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Join here.

Meet Sam Hoisington, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Sam Hoisington

What you do: I just started about a month ago as the social media editor for InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom dedicated to covering climate and environment issues. I’m responsible for web production, too.

Why you’re on Gather: I am the only person responsible for digital/social at ICN, so I’m looking for inspiration and great ideas to “borrow” for my own. It’s also nice to have another place to find community, since I do work remotely.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: I definitely want to learn about how small publishers are using Apple News, Flipboard Smart News and other news aggregators to drive traffic to their sites. So seriously, if you’ve found success as a small publisher with these platforms, please do DM me.

One thing you have to share on Gather: I’ve got a couple of things to share, but the thing that I am most excited to talk about is my Twitter list for early-career audience engagement professionals. This is a group of journalists that you’re going to want to pay attention to.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: Newsletters!!! I love a good newsletter. Why? I’m not actually sure. I’m just obsessed with them.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work: I like solving problems. When I did beat reporting for a bit, it felt like a constant churn of content. I like setting goals and being held to an expectation of regularly improving performance indicators.

Would you rather work in chaos or quiet? I like a nice mix. When I’m really diving into something, I need silence. Absolute silence. I am a fickle beast.

Links for ways to connect with you. @SamHoisington and
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