Professor sees a rebirth of journalism using new approaches – AroundtheO
Quality journalism is experiencing a boon as a result of the election and first months of the Trump administration, said Regina Lawrence, executive director of the UOâs Agora Journalism Center and George S. Turnbull Portland Center and a scholar on the role of the media in politics and campaigns.
If true, it seems reports of the death of journalism have been greatly exaggerated. There is evidence for growing engagement in the news, Lawrence said, because itâs so much more important now for people to feel theyâre staying on top of what is going on. It may not take the shape of traditional journalism, however, as different approaches are utilized that center more around community involvement, solutions-based and visual storytelling.
And thatâs exciting, Lawrence said. She calls it Â good news, not only for the state of the profession and the function of the media, but also for innovative journalism centers like UO Portlandâs Agora Center to explore and research new forms of journalism and apply them in what has turned out to be a critical yet hopeful era of the news industry.
But the resurgence of the news in peopleâs everyday lives is not that simple. Itâs complicated, Lawrence believes, mainly because of partisan divides and the tendency for readers to gravitate toward the viewpoint that most matches up with theirs.
âQuality journalism also happens to be the stuff that is attracting some partisans from the progressive side, so thatâs an interesting problem for journalism,â she said. âI think outlets are having to figure out now where they want to be in terms of the partisan side and where they want to be in terms of this presidency.â
And that means that approaches, methods and strategies are changing, too, not only in the delivery of the news but in how itâs covered.
âItâs a crucial moment in part because our journalism students are entering a fundamentally different world than 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and even four or five years ago,â Lawrence said. âOur students are entering journalism and storytelling at a critical time when a lot of things are up for grabs and open to change and evolution and experimentation, and I think thatâs really exciting.â
She believes that editors, journalists and newsrooms need to become more reflective, not only about what theyâre covering but what role they play in shaping the publicâs understanding of issues. For example, she said, the Agora Centerâs Â multimedia journalism masterâs program in Portland is offering workshops and course work for students in explanatory journalism, a data-driven type of reporting that employs visualization, as in videos, that help people understand the issues more clearly.Â Â
âHereâs an issue,â she said as a matter of example. âLetâs turn it over and look at it from a couple of different angles, hereâs some data to consider. This is an ideal time for that because things are complex, and thoughtful citizens are not sure where to turn. They want to be informed, but they are not sure who to trust.â
Solutions journalism, another method in which the Agora Center is quickly becoming a national leader, is not âfeel-good journalism,â Lawrence warned. âItâs an approach that says letâs take the same critical investigative approach that we do toward problems and turn that toward solutions.â
She cites Open Housing, a partnership created between the Agora Center and local news organizations to create more well-rounded, solutions-oriented coverage of Portlandâs housing crisis. The one-year project centered around creating collaborative reporting and community engagement to identify the issues and the personal stories around housing that werenât being covered by traditional media.
And it is this engagement/solutions journalism approach that Lawrence is most excited about. She sees it as a way to use journalism to its fullest while building a bridge between the news and the community simultaneously.
âWe can know best whatâs happening in a community and how to cover it by talking and listening to the community, which always strikes journalists a little strange, because reporters might say, âBut thatâs what we do,ââ she said. âBut there is an art, there are techniques, for closer listening within a community.â
Last year, the Knight Foundation Â awarded the school a grant that helped create a platform called âGather,â which will soon be launched publicly. Its goal is to become a network and a meeting place for journalists who are practicing engaged journalism and provide them with resources, âa tool kit of case studies and resources,â she said.
It is these new approaches of storytelling and engagement that have Lawrence hopeful about the future of journalism, something that had seemingly been lost in the last decade.
âThisÂ moment,Â IÂ think,Â isÂ accelerating,â she said. âThe work is already being done. Itâs just increased the sense of urgency and the importance of reinvigorating engagement between the public and the news.âÂ
âBy Laurie Notaro, University Communications