Ten takeaways from our research that can help newsrooms and journalists tackle challenges in the year ahead.

  1. Journalists can help bridge the divide between the media and Black communities.

We asked Black Americans how news organizations could better cover their communities to help bridge the divide between them and the media. The interviews revealed six suggestions for journalists:

  1. Find “Black Joy”: Intentionally cover positive stories about Black people and communities, rather than focusing coverage on police brutality or protests.
  2. Provide a More Complete Story: Develop more sources in Black communities and tell stories that include their points of view.
  3. Diversify…

Coronavirus updates are coming in constantly and your newsroom resources are likely strained as you try to keep staff safe and healthy. The Center for Media Engagement is hoping to help by sharing our research-based ideas to help you connect with your audience.

Use proven trust techniques in your reporting.

Why?

We know that readers and journalists alike think newsrooms could be more transparent. During times of upheaval, it’s especially important that readers and viewers think of you as a news source they can trust. …


1. Build trust by using an “Explain Your Process” box.

Audience trust is key to a newsroom’s success. But in this era of “fake news” and fading confidence in the media, it can be difficult to earn. We worked with Trusting News to show that adding a box that helps readers understand the journalistic process can help to build trust.

The box should lay out how and why a news organization chose to do a story and can include information like where reporters gathered information and how the reporter took steps to be fair. …


On July 22, 2019, Knight made a $50 million investment to develop a new field of research around technology’s impact on democracy, including a $2.5 million investment in the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Below, center researchers share how they’ll use the funds to explore “connective democracy.”

Democrats vs. Republicans. Scientists vs. laypeople. The media vs. the public. America is facing an accelerated rise and entrenchment of tribalistic divides, creating new challenges in facilitating the exchange of information in our society.

The great experiment that is American democracy thrives on diverse views, but these…


Audience trust is key to a newsroom’s success. But in this era of “fake news” and fading confidence in the media, it can be difficult to earn. In our latest report, the Center for Media Engagement teamed up with Joy Mayer of Trusting News to see if using boxes that demonstrate transparency could help the issue. The study tested two approaches to building trust:

  • Showing the audience how journalists approached a story by adding an “explain your process” box to news stories.
  • Showing the audience a commitment to balanced coverage of partisan topics by adding a “demonstrating balance” box to…


1. Images and links at the bottom of the page help keep readers on your site.

Getting readers to stay on your site can be a challenge. Our research found a few ways you can encourage them to keep clicking:

  • Using an image with your links gets more clicks than just text
  • Putting links at the end of the page results in more clicks than putting them in the middle of the page
  • Generic wording (like “Related Stories”) works better than complex wording (like “What Else People Can Read on This Topic”)
  • Linking to related content instead of popular content…


Credit: Aniwhite, Shutterstock

But, we can explore ways to draw people’s attention to important information

By Erika Franklin Fowler and Natalie Jomini Stroud

Information is everywhere. Citizens are inundated with it, and sorting through the sheer volume of information–let alone identifying quality information–on any given topic can be overwhelming. As if information overload were not challenging enough, partisan bickering over which facts are important and even which facts are accurate makes the task even more difficult.

In this polarized and politicized environment, some people hunker down into ideological camps, engaging with information in ways that confirm or reinforce their existing point of view. Others attempt to sort through the messages to find facts amid the…


How would you change the Chicago media? It’s the question we posed to a room full of people gathered to think about how the Chicago media cover different neighborhoods in the city.

A packed room of Chicago citizens and journalists discussing Chicago News survey results. Courtesy of City Bureau.

As researchers with the Center for Media Engagement, we had just finished writing up our findings from a survey of 900 Chicagoans. We conducted the survey in collaboration with the City Bureau, a nonprofit civic journalism lab on the South Side of Chicago, with funding from the McCormick Foundation.

The survey results were striking. Those on the South and West Sides reported that coverage of their neighborhoods was…


What counts as news has been undergoing a revolution. Standard news articles are complemented by new formats like tweets, memes, and, as we investigate here, plays. The Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin conducted an experiment, funded by and in partnership with The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), to analyze how audiences responded to a play. The play was about civil rights leader Vera Mae Pigee and was produced in Clarksdale, Mississippi as a partnership between CIR and Mississippi Today, a local nonprofit news organization.

Image: Mrs. James of Clarksdale, Mississippi sharing her reaction to the play Beautiful Agitators. photo credit: Leah Mahan

In this research — something that we will replicate before…


Participants discuss audience engagement and political reporting at the recent News Engagement Workshop, hosted by the Engaging News Project and the Agora Journalism Center.

The daily proceedings of the U.S. Congress don’t always make for the most exciting news. But their actions have profound implications for the country. So how do you bring audiences to news coverage that is sometimes considered “boring” or “dry”? What can news organizations do to make political coverage more engaging?

We posed these questions, and more, at a recent News Engagement Workshop hosted by the Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin and the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon. The 11 digital news leaders and reporters who participated represented a variety of newsrooms…

Center for Media Engagement

Conducting original, groundbreaking research alongside newsrooms, social media platforms, and organizations looking to influence media practices.

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