When Jillian Bauer-Reese reads news coverage of Kensington, she said it could be best described as “dystopian.”
“I found from talking to people in the neighborhood [Kensington] that they didn’t feel that their needs were being met by journalists,” she said. “People don’t trust journalists. They’ve been traumatized by poverty and all of the things that intersect with poverty and then re-traumatized by media just parachuting into the neighborhood and covering their experience in a negative way.”
Now, the Temple University assistant journalism professor is trying to give Kensington residents control over their own stories with the launch of student-run Kensington Voice. This online media organization offers pop-up newsrooms, journalism workshops and public editorial meetings in order to create a space where the Kensington community to shape the narrative.
"Our goal is to provide journalism as a service to rebuild trust between journalists and residents."
She said this is important because she feels journalism should be done for the community, rather than just to be consumed by it.
“I feel very strongly that journalism should be a service,” she added. “Our goal is to provide journalism as a service to rebuild trust between journalists and residents and other community members there.”
WHYY’s Kevin McCorry takes a similar approach as the editor of Keystone Crossroads. The program collaborates with public radio stations across the state in order to humanize stories that affect Pennsylvanians statewide.
McCorry said he puts effort into exploring and understanding areas of Pennsylvania that aren’t often touched by the media.
“We try to spend some time in a community so that we’re not just in and out and able to talk to a lot of different people. It helps us try to get a better sense of the people in those communities,” he said. “The more I visit these neighborhoods, the more I can understand the issue in general and the more diversity of voices I can put on the radio.”
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McCorry also focuses on finding new voices in his own backyard. On Friday, Keystone Crossroads hosted an education town hall in North Philadelphia. That discussion, McCorry said, will shape WHYY’s coverage directly.
“We learned a lot about perspectives that we wouldn’t have heard if we went to our usual suspects for comment,” he said. “To just say ‘let’s have a conversation’ can reorient the stories we write based on what we’re hearing.”
He added that diversity is a top priority because it allows for the most perspective to be included in a story.
“I think it’s just good reporting at the end of the day. You have to meet new people in order to tell stories from their points of view,” he said. “If you’re not actually in communities trying to understand points of view that you might not bump into everyday, you could have a pretty one-sided view of a certain issue.”
Bauer-Reese added that including a variety of voices in the media is a necessary part of democracy.
“I want the people to understand that it is important to contact a journalist when you are having an issue or to use your voice to give comment,” she said. “At the same time, I want journalists to be more sensitive to the needs of community members.”
McCorry said news organizations should start listening as much as they broadcast.
“That kind of grassroots reporting is the stuff that people tend to connect with anyway,” he added. “If you’re willing to make the investment and take the time to be in the communities, it will pay a good dividend.”-30-
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