A woman with short brown hair wearing a blue and yellow sundress holds a microphone while sitting in white chairs next to a man with short hair and a blue shirt on a stage at a conference.
Beatrice Forman and Jaisal Noor answer questions from the audience during the Democracy Day session at #CJS2023. (Photo by Will Allen-Dupraw.)

Democracy reporting takes center stage at 2023 Collaborative Journalism Summit

Plus 11 reasons why you should join the U.S. Democracy Day collaboration

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Earlier this month, the 2023 Collaborative Journalism Summit featured a trio of sessions and panels on how journalists are collaborating to cover democracy and elections in the United States.

One energizing session, led by Beatrice Forman and Jaisal Noor, focused on U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide pro-democracy reporting collaborative.

Watch the full Democracy Day 2023 session at #CJS2023 on YouTube.

For those who attended, the urgency and demand for pro-democracy and solutions-based journalism was clear throughout the entire session and Q+A portion.

Beatrice Forman, project coordinator for U.S. Democracy Day, argued that service journalism is essential for people to participate fully in democracy. But covering democracy also goes beyond just elections and voting machines, she said.

“Pro-democracy coverage,” Forman explained, “can include service journalism and explanatory pieces, empowering people by providing information they need to participate fully in democracy.”

A slide from Forman and Noor’s Democracy Day presentation.

Service journalism — often associated with civic, engaged, and community journalism — in the context of democracy is fundamentally about helping people understand the roles of their county and election commissioners, how the decisions and policies that lawmakers enact will impact them and their neighbors. It’s about reporting on the stakes — not the odds — of an election or policy for the larger community.

Pro-democracy journalism also doesn’t mean taking a partisan side or ignoring inconvenient realities. It simply means moving away from stories that highlight the political competition and gamesmanship, and instead covering the gravity and impact of what’s at stake when it comes to a particular issue or topic. And “transparency in the reporting process,” Forman said, “is key to countering accusations of bias.”

Jasial Noor, democracy cohort manager at Solutions Journalism Network, agreed.

“Being pro-democracy doesn’t mean being pro-Democratic Party,” he explained. “Both parties should be held to the same standards. Journalists should evaluate decisions, actions, and impacts of policies regardless of the administration in power. It’s crucial to focus on the impacts of policies on people’s lives, not just the political drama.”

A slide from Forman and Noor’s Democracy Day presentation.

Forman also touched on some of the challenges and opportunities offered by social media platforms like Twitter. While it’s clear that these spaces can be hazardous for journalists, she explained, they’re also where a lot of the people are.

“There’s a balance between Twitter not being a safe space for journalists and it being where people are,” Forman said in response to a question from the audience. “Even though Twitter might not be the safest space for journalists, it’s where a general interest audience is, and there’s still a compelling reason to be there.”

A slide from Forman and Noor’s Democracy Day presentation.

“Reporting on edge cases or worst-case scenarios is really, really important,” Forman said. “It demystifies the election process and voting process in our country.”

Democracy — the bedrock of our society — is under threat. But journalists and communities can work together to fight back.

So, what are you waiting for? Join us today!

You or your newsroom can sign up to become a Democracy Day partner here. The commitment: to produce one democracy-centric story on Sept. 15, 2023 — the International Day of Democracy — and to examine how your newsroom’s practices do (or don’t) empower voters.

Red button with white text that reads: “JOIN DEMOCRACY DAY”

🗽 11 reasons to join U.S. Democracy Day:

  1. Collaborate with newsrooms across the country
  2. Increase the visibility and reach of your reporting
  3. Strengthen your newsroom’s commitment to democracy
  4. Share and get access to resources and best practices with other news organizations
  5. Gain access to exclusive content and reporting opportunities
  6. Build relationships with new partners
  7. Inspire your audience to engage in civic life and foster a sense of community around democratic values
  8. Access a network of experts and sources for your stories
  9. Contribute to the nationwide conversation on democracy
  10. Serve the public better by helping them understand the stakes of the moment
  11. Journalists around the world are dying for democracy. Do your part to fight back.

The clock is ticking, the people are waiting, and the stakes have never been higher.

🗳️ Contact the Democracy Day organizing team!

Email info@usdemocracyday.org, sign up via Airtable, or check out the Democracy Day project page to learn more about what pro-democracy reporting looks like in practice.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily 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 operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.

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The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University works to grow and strengthen local and collaborative journalism.