Colorful paper cutouts of raised arms in various skin tones, symbolizing diversity and inclusion, against a teal background. The bottom of each paper arm features cutouts of hearts and the word “CARE.”
Image and report design by Helene & Simone Bendix (

A guide to practicing care in journalism

Lessons from jesikah maria ross

4 min readJun 3, 2024


The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is always on the lookout for innovative approaches and best practices that can help journalists and media professionals better serve their communities. That’s why we are excited to publish a new guide by jesikah maria ross, titled “Taking Care: A guide for participatory and trauma-informed journalism.”

In this richly detailed resource, ross draws on her extensive experience leading collaborative storytelling projects to offer practical tips and profound insights into how journalists can center care in their reporting process. By sharing lessons learned from her work directing the award-winning “After the Assault” project with CapRadio in Sacramento, she provides a roadmap for creating journalism that not only informs, but also supports healing, builds trust, and catalyzes positive change.

What makes this guide unique and relevant is how ross describes specific care practices and gives examples of where and how to use them in the reporting workflow. She also shows how integrating these practices results in powerful stories and community impact.

Green button with white text that reads, “REQUEST A COPY OF THE GUIDE.”

One of the key takeaways from the guide is the importance of involving stakeholders from the very beginning of the reporting process. As ross emphasizes, it’s important to start by listening to the communities most affected by the issues being covered and to create an environment of care that helps people feel seen, heard, and supported. This means taking the time to research the community, understand participants’ goals, and establish clear agreements about roles and responsibilities.

Another crucial lesson is the value of forming project advisory groups that bring together diverse perspectives and experiences. By involving key stakeholders in shaping the editorial vision and providing ongoing input, journalists can ensure that their reporting is accurate, nuanced, and reflective of the lived realities of those most impacted. At the same time, ross stresses the need to provide the practical and emotional support that people need to participate fully, especially when working with trauma survivors or marginalized communities.

Perhaps most importantly, the guide calls on journalists to embrace a new ethic of care that goes beyond traditional notions of objectivity and distance. This means being willing to share power in the editorial process, create spaces for dialogue and problem-solving, and use our platform to meet community needs and build bridges. It also means practicing reflexivity — examining our own identities, biases, and relationships with sources, and being transparent about how they shape our reporting.

Lessons for today’s journalism

For media professionals, the guide offers practical steps and actionable insights into how to implement participatory and trauma-informed reporting. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Start with listening: Before diving into reporting, spend time understanding the community’s needs, aspirations, and challenges. Listening sessions can provide critical context and demonstrate how you will treat people’s stories with fairness and respect.
  2. Involve stakeholders: Form advisory groups that include diverse stakeholders from the community. These groups can offer ground-level perspectives and help guide the reporting process from story development through distribution to reach new or underserved audiences.
  3. Share power: Collaborate with your sources and partner organizations, allowing them to help shape the narrative. This not only enhances the story’s authenticity and builds trust, it generates resources and relationships that can help communities thrive over time.
  4. Prioritize care: Create environments that support the well-being of your sources, community partners, and reporters. This includes eliciting everyone’s goals, setting clear expectations, being transparent, checking-in, and providing resources.
  5. Create feedback loops: Keep the community informed about your progress and invite continuous feedback. This helps ensure that the reporting remains aligned with community needs and values.

Of course, as ross acknowledges, this kind of work is not easy. It requires time, resources, and a willingness to challenge long-held assumptions and practices. But the rewards — in terms of community trust, civic engagement, and societal well-being — are well worth the effort.

Guides like this have the potential to transform the way we think about and practice journalism. By providing concrete examples and actionable advice, they can inspire and equip a new generation of media professionals to put care at the center of their work.

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The “Taking Care” guide was written by jesikah maria ross and edited by Angilee Shah. ross pitched the idea for the guide to the Center last year, and the Center agreed to provide financial support and a platform for publishing. The guide was independently reviewed by Heather Bryant, Sammy Caiola, Jihii Jolly and Sue Robinson.

Joe Amditis is the assistant director of operations at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact him at or on Twitter at @jsamditis.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit



Associate director of operations, Center for Cooperative Media; host + producer, WTF Just Happened Today podcast.