Today’s engaged journalism landscape is moving from experimentation to mainstream, much like multimedia did in its early days

Andrew DeVigal
Sep 18 · 4 min read

I suspect some folks who know me will be surprised to hear me say that I’m an introvert, or that at least I display ambivert tendencies. It takes me longer than others to process external stimuli and real-time events — one example of this tendency. Thus, large convenings like the recent Online News Association’s national convention can be challenging, and I often lament some missed opportunities from the day.

KPCC’s Ashley Alvarado and City Bureau’s Darryl Holliday accepts their Gather Award in Engaged Journalism.

As such, I woke up Sunday morning wishing that I framed my announcement of the winners of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication-sponsored Gather Award in Engaged Journalism differently. Of course, I remain proud of the winners, KPCC and City Bureau, and for their pioneering community-engagement work and well-earned recognition. Considering the audience while still recognizing the time constraint, I wished I provided my insights as to where we are with this engagement movement against the larger backdrop of where we are with the industry. In retrospect, I would have said this:

Greetings and salutations. It’s an exciting and pivotal moment for all of us this evening. We are, of course, celebrating ONA’s 20th anniversary and honoring several amazing journalism projects from the past year this evening. We are also seeing a seismic shift in the industry tonight by recognizing and honoring the work of engaged journalism with the first-ever Gather Award for Engaged Journalism at ONA’s OJA 2019.

And we’ve seen this type of shift before. Some of you in the audience may know me as a “multimedia guy” who ran the NYTimes multimedia desk for several years. But even before joining the Times, I created a platform that showcased the awe-inspiring multimedia work from the industry that helped to bolster and amplify interactive non-fiction narratives told across multiple media. In the early 2000s, lone multimedia journalists who either dabbled with video (or Soundslides) or knew enough ActionScript (Flash’s coding language) were assigned to these emerging roles to create visual and interactive experiences.

Fast forward to today where multimedia and interactive journalism are “table-stakes” to how we inform the public. With storytelling awards from digital-video, innovation in visual digital, audio digital, to immersive, it seems that over half of the finalists have some form of visual or interactive component.

What happened with multimedia twenty years ago is what’s happening with engagement today. I believe we’re finally at the cusp of formally recognizing the work of journalists intentionally creating on-ramps for public participation which transforms how they inform and relate to their communities. And as OJA’s has a category on “collaboration and partnerships,” I believe we’ll soon see awards given to collaborations with communities we serve. And I wouldn’t be surprised if an award for solutions-driven journalism is around the corner. Seattle Times’ Education Lab is a project that shares the ethos of engagement and solutions, for example.

I’m extremely excited about the inaugural Gather Award winners because they are two newsrooms at the forefront of reimagining the future of journalism that authentically starts with communities. And recognizing their trailblazing work will help us define the pathways going forward, especially as the Agora Journalism Center continues to fund this award in the next two Online Journalism Awards.

Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet 2019

That’s how I would have framed the introduction while keeping some of the original remarks intact including:

Agora Journalism Center’s executive director, Regina Lawrence, and I are proud to make this award possible with the winners of the project and portfolio categories each receiving $2,500 in prize money.

I believe it’s apropos that the award is named after the platform that supports the community of journalists that are committed to listening to the public they cover every single day. And the timing is a testament to the importance of this work.

Now whether you call this work engagement, participatory or simply incorporating community engagement techniques to create on-ramps for the public to participate in what we generally call beat journalism, we’re honored to collaborate with ONA & OJA to support the first GATHER Award in Engaged Journalism.

I should add that because of the brilliance and hard work of Alisha Savson, Gather also conducted three Lightning Chats with the finalists to learn from their shared wisdom and experiences. (You’ll need to be signed-into Gather to view. Not a member? Request an invite). Watch the 2019 OJAs here.

Congratulations once again to the finalists and winners of our first Gather Award in Engaged Journalism!

The finalists in the Project category are:

The finalists in the Portfolio category are:


Andrew DeVigal is an endowed chair in journalism innovation and civic engagement at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication as well as the associate director of the school’s Agora Journalism Center, the gathering place for innovation in communication and civic engagement. DeVigal is also the executive director of Gather and can be reached at andrew.devigal@gmail.com.

Let's GATHER

Updates and discussion about Gather, an engaged journalism collaborative

Andrew DeVigal

Written by

Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement, University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication’s Agora Journalism Center

Let's GATHER

Updates and discussion about Gather, an engaged journalism collaborative

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