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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:

  • JOURNALISM'S SURVIVAL: Focusing on "digital transformation" misses the real question at stake. 

  • ONA FINALISTS: Congratulations to the finalists for the first-ever Gather Award in Engaged Journalism!

  • JOB ALERT: WHYY in Philadelphia is looking for a Community Contributors and Engagement Editor.

  • HOT READ: "How the El Paso Killer Echoed the Incendiary Words of Conservative Media Stars."

  • INTROS: Meet Allen Arthur, the Online Engagement Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network.

Is your journalism useful and necessary?

What would your news product look like if it focused on the most essential information first? And if you involved your community in deciding what counts as truly essential? 

These questions surfaced this weekend in a Twitter thread from Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. 

She wrote, in part: “You know why so many news orgs are struggling? It's not because they don't know how to distribute news digitally. It's because they aren't serving our communities. They haven't been, for a long time. In many cases they never did.” 

Murray thought she was serving her community during her newsroom years, but she’s learned a lot about what communities really need — in part through her work on information needs assessments (which she wrote about for this newsletter in June). 

She pointed Twitter followers to this piece from City Bureau’s Harry Backlund: Is Your Journalism a Luxury or Necessity? This piece efficiently puts types of information into a structure like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Backlund wrote:

“There are a lot of ways we could visually represent information needs, but for simplicity let’s stick with Maslow and use a pyramid. At the foundation is information that has to circulate in a community for people to live: how to find housing, food, shelter, transportation and economic opportunity. In the middle of the pyramid is media that helps people and communities connect (like events calendars, school news and obituaries) and understand each other, as the best human interest stories can. At the top of the pyramid is information that appeals to more abstract desires and makes us feel engaged, intrigued or involved. Often these are stories about someone else’s needs. Pretty much all narrative storytelling, investigation and political analysis goes here—most of what we typically think of when we say “journalism.”

What if you took a week’s worth of journalism you produce and slotted it into those spots on the pyramid? How much of what you produce provides an essential service and helps people meet their basic needs? There are a lot of kinds of journalism, of course, and that’s not the perfect question for everyone to ask. But for those of us whose work aims to keep the focus of our organizations squarely on the communities we serve, the question is likely a useful one. 

So much effort around journalism innovation focuses on digital transformation — tools, platforms and formats. What if the real innovation is in paying focused attention to being useful?

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

Congratulations to these ONA finalists

Finalists have been announced for the Online News Association's annual awards contest, and this year includes the first Gather Award for Engaged Journalism! (Yes, we're excited. Yes, we hope you are, too.) 

Here's a blurb from the ONA newsletter: 

This year's competition introduced a first-of-its kind award to honor people and projects that work with a community as part of a story or reporting process. In evaluating projects for the Gather Award for Engaged Journalism, judges considered unique or innovative use of engagement platforms, execution and meaningful impact on a community. 

And here are the finalists:

Portfolio Finalists: Project Finalists: Please help us congratulate these finalists on Slack!

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.

A lightning chat scheduling question: We tend to do our lightning chats on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, and we aim for the middle of the day (as close as we can get to that while spanning U.S. time zones). That tends to put us between noon and 4pm ET. If you’d like to participate in lightning chats but those times don’t work for you, please reply to this email and let us know what would be more convenient. Thanks!

Here's what's coming up:
  • TOMORROW Thursday, Aug. 15, 1-1:30 ET // Engagement workflow. What are the biggest challenges specific to engagement work — both for internal communication on an engagement team and for communication with the rest of the organization? What about engagement work and about audience + community relationships and interactions most need to be communicated?  What tools and strategies are helpful? Join veteran leaders and engagers Kim Bui and Emma Carew Grovum. Click here to add this to your Google Calendar.
  • Aug. 22, 2-2:30 pm ET // Why would someone come to your event? Before hosting an event, ask what your community will get out of it. This chat will focus on how to design an event with your potential participants in mind. Join hosts Tiney Ricciardi of the Dallas Morning News and Kristin Walters of Illinois Newsroom. Join us on Zoom 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.

Apply to be the Community Contributors and Engagement Editor at WHYY: “Our ideal candidate is someone who understands that people are experts of their own experiences and who can create and sustain relationships with diverse communities, connecting them to WHYY’s journalists, production teams, and programming. The position will work with community contributors, partners and internal staff on implementing strategic plans that will deepen WHYY’s cultural competency and engagement with diverse communities, including through the Community Conversations."


Engagement event discount for Gather folks

Hearken and Gather are pleased to announce a special deal for Hearken's inaugural Engagement Innovation Summit, being held Oct. 23-24 in Brooklyn. This summit will have dedicated tracks on what journalists can learn about engagement from other disciplines, and how your work can contribute to a better informed and active electorate for the upcoming elections. Use the code GATHER when you register by Aug. 31 to receive 10% off the early bird price. Register here


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. We keep hearing from people who don’t know Gather has a Slack. Join here.
  • When to allow comments: On your website, do you allow comments on only some stories? If so, how do you explain to your audience which stories are open for comment? Join the conversation on Slack.
  • Welcoming people to your newsletter: What goes into a good welcome email? Find examples and share your thoughts. Join the conversation on Slack
  • New #Europe channel: Patrick Boehler (our featured member from a few weeks ago) proposed a Slack channel for European Gatherers, and we’re happy to oblige. Join that channel here.
  • Not engagement-related, but … One of the most active threads on Slack in the last week was on the topic of task management tools and To Do lists. To read All The Recommendations, join the conversation on Slack
  • Your feedback on Gather: The Gather steering committee (listed at the bottom of this page) is meeting this week to go over what we heard from those of you who took our recent user survey. We look forward to reporting back about what we learned and how we plan to be responsive.
  • Hot Read:How the El Paso Killer Echoed the Incendiary Words of Conservative Media Stars," by Jeremy W. Peters, Michael M. Grynbaum, Keith Collins, Rich Harris and Rumsey Taylor at The New York Times. (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 Allen Arthur, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Allen Arthur

What you do: I'm the newish Online Engagement Manager at Solutions Journalism Network. Before that I did social and audience development at Documented and was assistant to Dr. Carrie Brown at Newmark Grad School of Journalism's Social Journalism program.

Why you’re on Gather: I see meaningful, deep, genuine engagement that cedes power to our communities as one the most essential ways (if not the most)  to upend the traditional structures of journalism. Any way I can learn to do that is an inviting place to me. That everyone is so helpful and generous is a lovely bonus.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: I'm currently thinking about how to adapt newsroom engagement ideas into a nonprofit/education context. Any advice or expertise is appreciated. 

One thing you have to share on Gather: I have significant experience working, building trust, and creating unique projects with marginalized communities. It's my great joy to help journalists reimagine those relationships. 

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: I'm most pumped up by a side gig of mine. I host and co-produce a live event called The Art of Return at Caveat in NYC every other month. (Here’s a link to this weekend’s event.) It's a live show for formerly incarcerated artists and, while building an audience has been slow going, I'm consistently and deeply moved by the results. We're working on turning the shows into magazines that we can send into prisons to help people understand what release and transition are like. Its potential, uniqueness, and intensity get me really pumped. 

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? I was inspired to make a career change into journalism by the bravery of people telling me their stories when I was doing more traditional "activist" work. As journalists, we're fundamentally useless without their courage. From there, people like Carrie Brown, Terry Parris Jr., and the rest of the incredible faculty at CUNY/Newmark Social J taught me that journalism didn't need to be (and in fact, suffers from solely existing as) top-down storytelling. They taught me that social media is really about listening, and that journalists should begin thinking of themselves beyond "storytellers", or at least rethink what those stories look like.

Would you rather be at the beach or the mountains? I'm such a beach guy. Beaches are my happy place. Vast expanses of water are as close as I get to church. 

Links for ways to connect with you:
You can find me on Twitter @LissomeLight, follow SJN @Soljourno on Twitter / @Solutionsjournalism on Instagram and Facebook, or learn about The Art of Return and my more traditional journalism work at my website I love to learn from people, and I love to listen, so feel free to get in touch.
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