Welcome to the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab

The Engaged Journalism Lab is a resource for building and supporting trusted, inclusive, and audience-driven journalism.

Josh Stearns
Jun 18, 2018 · 3 min read

The ability of journalism to serve as our Fourth Estate — to be a check and balance on government and powerful interests — is under increasing threat. Journalism today faces multiple challenges: a faltering business model with shrinking resources; a political environment in which they find themselves under attack; and a climate of deep distrust by the American people.

In a 2017 survey, the Poynter Institute, a Democracy Fund grantee, found that only 49% of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media. We believe this distrust is connected to another problem: journalism’s lack of deep engagement with its audiences, exacerbated by news organizations whose staff and coverage do not represent the communities they serve.

At Democracy Fund, one of our goals is to ensure that every American citizen has access to audience-centered, trusted, resilient journalism. To meet this goal, we are working to build a media landscape that truly serves the public interest. Through our Public Square Program, we support projects and organizations that enable newsrooms to build meaningful, trusted relationships with their communities through audience-driven storytelling, inclusion, and transparency. We call this work “Engaged Journalism,” and have seen firsthand how practical investments in these organizations and ideas can have a transformative effect on newsrooms.

As a part of this effort, we’re re-launching this Medium publication as the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab. The Engaged Journalism Lab will focus, not on how to get a grant from Democracy Fund, but rather on what our grantees and partners are doing and learning. We’ll also discuss the big ideas shaping the field and shine a spotlight on the people helping to make journalism more inclusive and engaged with its community. We hope it will serve as a resource for those working at the intersection of media and democracy.

Some of our Engaged Journalism grantees meet at the Democracy Fund offices in 2017

The Local News Lab’s work exploring bold ideas for the future of local news continues at LocalNewsLab.org and through the weekly Local Fix newsletter. And you can find out more about Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to ensure our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people, at democracyfund.org.

Managed by Paul Waters and Lea Trusty, the Engaged Journalism Lab will feature content on a variety of subjects, including how newsrooms can better:

  • Engage their communities in content generation, production, dissemination, and discussion;
  • Address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within journalism through inclusive newsroom policies and practices, including recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse staff and supporting minority ownership of independent media properties;
  • Experiment with new tools and technology that aim to help the public and news distribution platforms identify quality, trusted news; and
  • Rebuild and fortify trust between the media and Americans.

We recognize that these are not small goals — and we know we can’t do it alone. Democracy Fund believes that collaboration is the only way we can begin to solve journalism’s most pressing challenges, and as a systems change organization, we are committed to learning, iterating, and partnering in ways that strengthen both our work and the field at large.

It is our hope the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab becomes a place to highlight new ideas and uncover new solutions that we haven’t thought of yet. If you have a question or a thought, please share it. If there’s an idea or project that we should know about, please let us know. You can reach us at EJLab@democracyfund.org. We don’t pretend to have all answers to journalism’s problems, but we hope this will be a place where we can work through some of the questions together.

Josh Stearns is the Director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund and the co-founder of the Local News Lab. Follow him on Twitter @jcstearns.

The Engaged Journalism Lab

Welcome to the Engaged Journalism Lab, a project of Democracy Fund. Here you'll find blog posts, case studies, event recaps, and more ― all centered around building trusted, inclusive, and audience-driven journalism.

Josh Stearns

Written by

Director, Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund. Journalism and democracy of, by and for the people. Formerly: @grdodge @freepress

The Engaged Journalism Lab

Welcome to the Engaged Journalism Lab, a project of Democracy Fund. Here you'll find blog posts, case studies, event recaps, and more ― all centered around building trusted, inclusive, and audience-driven journalism.

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