Graphic recordings by Terry Laban of Breakthrough Visuals. To see the rest of the graphic recordings from the gathering, visit our Visual Recordings page.

Engaging the Emergence of Civic Media Ecosystems

Andrew DeVigal
Commonplace Forum
4 min readAug 29, 2023


The following are my expanded remarks at ONA23’s Online Journalism Awards Ceremony and Banquet about the pre-conference we co-hosted with Journalism That Matters. Because of the limited time on stage, the following goes a little deeper into that gathering, Engaging Emergence: Advancing the Future of Journalism for All. The OJA Gather Award for Community-Centered Journalism is here separately.

In collaboration with PhillyCam, the local People-Powered Media organization in Philadelphia, we produced a short video offering a glimpse into our participant-driven approach and shared insights.

As a precursor to the Online News Association’s national conference in Philadelphia, 120 community-driven innovators assembled at Temple University to address this question: “How do we advance journalism for all?

Making space and capturing insights. Graphic recordings by Terry Laban of Breakthrough Visuals.

Co-hosted by the Agora Journalism Center and Journalism That Matters, the gathering united advocates, scholars, funders, community weavers AND, of course, vanguards of journalism. We called it Engaging Emergence: aspiring to the belief that when you bring together diverse practitioners, each bearing their unique perspectives and experiences, meaningful ideas and equitable solutions emerge. To ensure that we had the right approach and people in the room, we partnered with organizations committed to reimagining journalism that is more engaged, collaborative, constructive, and inclusive.

We crafted our agenda at the moment, using JTMs’ signature method of letting participants guide the conference. We tapped into our attendees’ collective wisdom and expertise through small group discussions, focusing on meaningful and urgent questions. Session topics ranged from “Leadership buy-in to trust communities and connect engagement to newsrooms” to “What is the role of public, educational, and governmental community access media?” to “Does ‘journalism for all’ include conservatives?” We welcome you to review and take in all of our session notes.

By co-designing our agenda at the moment (left photo), we tapped into participants’ collective wisdom and expertise. We started our time together by reflecting on our past (right photo).

On the 3rd day of our pre-conference, we shifted the conversation to include attendees of ONA23 at the conference hotel. Our goal was to share some of our early discussions and, more importantly, model the participant-led facilitation techniques at the heart of listening to our communities. Not surprisingly, the differences between emerging civic media practitioners and traditional journalists came to the forefront. On one hand, more media outlets are adopting community-centered journalism. On the other hand, traditional newsrooms are holding onto their time-honored principle of “objectivity.” They see the increasing role of communities in shaping content as challenging. Moreover, the discussion of funding and reimagining priorities also found its way into the conversation.

The Wednesday afternoon session titled “Engaging Emergence: Advancing the Future of Journalism for All” mixed pre-conference attendees with newcomers from ONA23.

The debate endures, yet what’s truly inspiring is the emergence of new viewpoints in our approach to journalism. It’s inspiring to see a shift towards active engagement with communities, moving beyond the traditional practice. I suspect we’ll see this transition continue in the coming year.

The work continues. In the coming months, we’ll evaluate and analyze what transpired in Philadelphia to assess where more effort is needed and uncover knowledge gaps. Additionally, we aim to explore collaboration to discover synergies that might go unnoticed when working separately. Because of our industry’s limited resources, one of our objectives is to avoid duplicating efforts in this vital work.

Graphic recordings of our last session by Terry Laban of Breakthrough Visuals.

If you want to learn more or are inspired to collaborate, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Andrew DeVigal, director of the Agora Journalism Center, at

Nov 9, 2023 Update: Read the report prepared by Sue Robinson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Thanks to our sponsors, The MacArthur Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Democracy Fund, for helping to make this gathering accessible. And deep appreciation also goes to the Online News Association and Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University for their partnership in making space for our convening.

We also tapped into participants’ collective wisdom and expertise through small group discussions. I’m honored to collaborate with these fantastic individuals (right photo).



Andrew DeVigal
Commonplace Forum

Husband, father, brother, son, bridge builder, strategist; endowed chair in Journalism Innovation & Civic Engagement, University of Oregon School of Journalism