Your audience is wicked smart and will ask serious questions. Here are 50 examples as proof.

One of the common concerns we hear from newsrooms when we pitch our question-based engagement strategy is that journalists believe their audience won’t ask good questions.

We’ve discussed this problem before here, in CEO Jennifer Brandel’s piece with GroundSource’s Andrew Haeg about how the culture of journalism breeds disdain for the people we’re meant to be serving. (In case you’re the visual sort, that piece includes an excellent flowchart proving your audience isn’t a bunch of idiots.)

We’ve also explained how we don’t see news stories in binary: hard news vs. fluff. As our Engagement Consultant Ellen Mayer writes, “Too often, journalists dismiss any story that doesn’t qualify as hard news as trivial or ‘fluff.’ In doing so, they dismiss so many vital services journalists can and should perform for their communities.”

But back to our initial point: Your audience will ask serious, newsworthy questions. We’ve seen it happen for the dozens of newsrooms we work with, and we believe it’s true for your newsroom as well.

So today, we want to show receipts, as the saying goes.

For a talk at West Virginia University last week about social justice reporting, we gathered together some of the many examples of audiences asking smart questions about serious issues. Our lengthy list is below — every story there was created because audience members asked questions and newsrooms listened.

Topics audiences have asked newsrooms about:





Indigenous people


Environmental contamination

Economic downturn and development


Health care

Thanks to all the amazing members of the public who asked such smart questions, and to all our partner newsrooms for being brave enough to invite the questions and listen to their audiences.

If you’re interested in learning about how to become a Hearken partner newsroom, let us know.

Want to learn how to better engage the public? Download our free engagement checklist guide.