At City Bureau we define community engagement as any interaction with the people we not only serve but work with. To ensure our engagement approach both reckons with traditional journalism’s violent past and creates a future where journalism belongs to everyone, we’ve developed the following guidelines:
We believe community engagement is a pillar of journalism—it’s not a tool, single job, one-off project or a means to saving traditional news institutions.
We believe authentic community engagement takes time, intentionality and space to evolve. We resist rushing this process and will not operate on timelines that don’t accommodate our community.
We cultivate relationships, not transactions. The status quo is extractive reporting and has led to distrust between the public and journalists, dehumanizing the interaction between community and media. We believe journalism should cultivate a network of relationships that generates accountability and shares resources.
We take an asset-oriented approach to our work. We honor and acknowledge that there are existing communities with resources that we can learn from and skills that journalists should share in return. This practice helps to build civic wealth and makes local information systems more resilient.
We produce work that is non-dominant (democratic in its nature) and non-binary (resisting a single truth or narrative). To combat journalism’s history of paternalism and white supremacy, often dressed as objectivity, we must unlearn the notion of a singular truth.
We don’t empower communities, we create space for interconnected learning and the expression of communal power.
The combined guidelines humanizes our work and ensures our newsroom acts fluid as an organism, not rigid as a machine.
Check out our ongoing reading list to explore what shaped the above list.
These guidelines were originally introduced in a blog post by City Bureau’s community engagement director Andrea Hart in June 2019, which includes more context about how they were created.
“Decolonizing Wealth” by Edgar Villanueva
“Objectivity is dead, and I’m OK with it” by Lewis Wallace
“Emergent Strategy” by adrienne maree brown
Gareth Morgan’s eight metaphors for organizations from “Images of Organization”
“A Revolution of Values” from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (1967) speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
“Community Wealth Building” by Democracy Collaborative
“Care Work” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Sanarasinha
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
“Journalism should be free” by Mari Cohen and Christian Belanger
“Why Should I Tell You?: A Guide to Less Extractive Reporting” by Natalie Yahr