Participatory and Community-Responsive Journalism

Julia Lowe
Resolve tabling at a community engagement event

We know that news can serve readers better when it’s rooted in relationships, solutions and community voices. At Resolve, one of our guiding principles is to make journalism that’s participatory and community-responsive – created with and for our communities.

What is Participatory Journalism?

Participatory journalism happens when residents participate in the process of creating news and narratives, whether it’s by telling their own stories, collecting and sharing news that stands on its own, or contributing to reporter-produced work.

When residents play an active role in the newsmaking process, that news is more credible and better addresses the community's concerns. It also helps build trust between everyday people and the journalism organizations that serve them.

Through Philly Documenters, we directly involve community members in our process of newsgathering and fostering reporting skills among citizen journalists.

Philly Documenters is an initiative aimed at making local government more transparent and accessible. We recruit, train, and pay residents to attend and take notes at public meetings across the city. Not only does this help build a more accurate and comprehensive public record, but our Documenters become powerful community resources for media, community organizers, and civic leaders working toward solutions.

Nationally, the Documenters program has trained over 2,000 residents to take notes at public meetings. Many have gone on to become journalists, organizers, and public officials. In just one year since its launch, the Philadelphia chapter of this network is helping improve residents’ understanding of how local government works and foster interest in continuing the reporting process beyond documenting public meetings. Philly Documenters have already impacted the mechanics of public meetings by improving access and increasing the sharing of meeting notes and agendas.

In Philadelphia, though the impact of creating better informed residents who can then inform their neighbors is immeasurable, many Documenters are also expressing interest in the next steps: pitching stories, building experience to freelance and publish. 

What is Community-Responsive Journalism?

Community-responsive journalism doesn’t just respond to the needs of the community, it starts with the community. Our Community Engagement team maintains open and accessible channels for the community to contribute ideas, suggest stories, and offer feedback on our reporting. Not only does this help us craft more relevant reporting, but it also fosters engagement and trust with communities. These channels include our Sound OFFs and our network of Info Hub Captains.

Sound OFFs are small group conversations and listening sessions conducted to better understand information needs, narratives, and what’s happening at the most local level in our city. Resolve then funnels the insights, perspectives and questions from these communities to our newsroom partners. Rather than responding to audience feedback after content is published, we conduct Sound OFFs to let the needs and priorities of communities drive editorial output. Our work to engage communities and create community-responsive journalism is also made possible in part through our Info Hub Captains.

Info Hub Captains are a network of residents who are heavily involved in their communities and keenly listen to the information needs of their neighbors. Through our Info Hub Captains, we identify information needs and address them through our text line, collaborative reporting by the Philadelphia Journalism Collaborative and our print community newsletter. Through this storytelling, Info Hub Captains help us better reflect communities who have historically been marginalized by mainstream media.

Why does Resolve involve Community Members in Journalism?

Our mission at Resolve is to develop and advance journalism that’s rooted in equity, collaboration, and the elevation of community voices. To do this, we are committed to authentically mirroring the diversity and dynamics of the communities we serve – and participatory and community-responsive journalism are at the core that commitment and of our journalistic ethos.

We actively listen to the concerns, interests, and questions of Philadelphia residents, treating their feedback as a compass guiding our reporting efforts. By addressing these concerns, we hold ourselves accountable and strengthen the bond of credibility between us and our communities. This emphasis on community participation not only creates better journalism but empowers individuals and communities to become resources, leaders, and citizen journalists.