Step One: empathetic, agenda-free listening.

Moving out of the newsroom and into the spaces of those we wish to serve.

What I like most about the design thinking process is that, at it’s best, it is open, democratic and transparent. Starting with empathy, this process establishes a feedback loop with the community I seek to serve. Through engaged journalism that models this process, I want to promote understanding, autonomy and justice for women who have been misdiagnosed by doctors in our country.

In order to do so, I will start engaging with women in my local community in Bedford-Stuyvesant and do background research with them, in addition to sources I am already familiar with that might be outside of my local community. The question I have found most important that has come out of class discussions and readings on this reporting process is twofold: how can I determine who is in this community and who is not, and how the heck am I supposed to help develop an effective solution for them through my work?

In response to that question, I wish to take the approach in which I simply seek to learn from and understand my community, rather than one where I seek a “story.” For the ladder often has little impact on the community itself beyond bringing awareness to their issues, challenges, etc.

I am excited to humbly embed myself into a community meaning, I engage often enough to become a familiar, trusted face in order to develop a deep understanding of the challenges, issues and systems at work in the community I wish to serve. I see admitting what I don’t know as the key to being able to relay the truth that can only come from community members themselves. I want to avoid filling the gap between facts that I discover and the truth of human experience with my own worldview, and rather be so connected to the experience that the storytelling is mutual. After all, everyone is an expert on their own life experience and I seek to understand and synthesize many experiences on a deep level.

Jesse Hardman, a journalism professor who has written on his experience applying methods of international media development to the local news crisis in the U.S., says, the reality is that there are millions of Americans who lack access to basic resources, including information that might improve their situations. Despite some connection to information networks, even arguably over-connection in some cases, many communities are still left out of the conversation — and it is our job as engaged journalists to recognize need and to bridge that gap.

How will we embark on such a mission? By going offline first, showing up as a fellow human, getting to know physical communities, and listening empathetically.