Community Building – Panel Report #CJC16

How can constructive approaches strengthen contact and interaction with and within your community? This question lied at the heart of this session, where four speakers gave convincing examples but also raised questions on the issue of involvement: how far can you go?

This panel had four inspiring talks by:
Heather Robertson, Masters student at Rhodes University, development communications consultant and media trainer; former editor The Herald, South Africa
Jasper Koning, digital editor at Tegenlicht (Backlight), Netherlands
Karel Smouter: deputy editor at the Correspondent, Netherlands
Terhi Upola, reporter at YLE Finnish Broadcasting Company, Finland

Heather Robertson: an exercise in listening

Heather Robertson. Photo: Jaap Schuurman

Heather Robertson worked as a journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where she was an editor of small local news paper. The city is divided along racial lines. Her question was twofold: how can we extend the base of our audience and how can we bridge the gap between these population groups. She found a partner in institution Canrad, Centre fort he Advancement of Non-Racialism & Democracy, part of NMMU, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Together with this institute she tried to break down the walls between the racial groups and also grow readership. They started the dialogues.

What are The dialogues

They developed three forms of dialogues, Town Hall dialogues, Book Launches and Fishbowl Dialogues. The Town Hall Dialogues were supposed to bring different political groups together.

Tekst gaat door onder de video (2011)

The ANC dominated the country for 21 years, they weren’t used to opposition. So the aim of the Town Hall Dialogies was to let people listen to their opponent, debate the point, not the person. And after 21 years people voted for different political parties. Although she doesn’t know if the dialogies did this, they did plant a seed.
There were set several ground rules:
Invite every political party. You can bring your people; they can dance, wave their flags, but you have to listen to the question and to the other persons. So a real debate could start.

Is this journalism?

elementsIn The elements of Journalism (2001), Kovach and Rosenstiel mention several principles concerning good journalism.
Heather reads the first two principles: the obligation to the truth and loyalty to citizens. That is first and most important. But they mention as point 6:
It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. This is what Heather did. So they became a news paper that tries to engage with his audience.

Jasper Koning, Tegenlicht Backlight

Tegenlicht, Backlight, is a TV-program that treats topics with high debatable content, like renewable energy, inequality or basic income. A normal cycle consisted of a preview for a selected audience, the episode on TV and afterwards a little discussion. But they want more, more engagement. They cooperated with Pakhuis de Zwijger, a venue in Amsterdam that organises a lot of meet ups. They proposed to discuss it afterwards. That had a great impact.

The meet ups

So end 2013 they started organising local meet ups. The first one in Amsterdam: a the clip of the show, a guest speaker with a short talk and then everyone discussing about the documentary. And every topics attracts a different audience. This idea grew, people started organising their meet up themselves in different cities. This year Tegenlight had the 90th meetup.

Places where meet ups are held

Local meet up

The organiser is owner of the local meet up. Everyone has his own style: meet ups with active citizens, politicians or entrepeneurs. Sometimes they offer the possibility of local discussion (local situation). It is a growing network.
Tegenlicht offers: clips of TV show, publicity on social media channel and more, but the meet ups have to meet certain rules: a local meet up is free for all, no entrance fee; they organise it themselves; it is an open format; there is no “official” meet up or franchising.
And sometimes a local meet ups give new ideas for documentaries.

Now what?

They go a step further. Build better connections between local meet up and the program makers in Hilversum to develop a bigger network.
Question: do we have to be more involved or just go on making documentaries?

Karel Smouter: the Correspondent

Karel Smouter

The Correspondent is an internet based journalistic start up. With around 30 journalists, called correspondents, and 25 other workers the Correspondent publishes about five articles a day. But a very important part of the job is communicating with members, the relationship is two-way, not only sending. 50% of the time of correspondents is used for communication with members.
The Correspondent creates journalism with their community. By taking their readers serious: they are experts. Every member has his expertise and know often so much more than one journalist on a certain topic. The challenge to tap the information from the readers. Every new project starts with a call, a request for information to the readers. So you come very close to certain practices.

Members as eyes and ears

A special project was “Nieuw in Nederland“. A questionnaire was sent to hundreds of members every month. They sat with refugees to answer the questions, hundreds of refugees at the same time. This was an amazing insight into the daily lives of these refugees. It was no science, but journalistic research. And they got a lot of special stories about refugees starting a new life in the Netherlands.

Illustratie: Marianne Lock (for The Correspondent)

The Correspondent did a lot of stories about the banking crisis. To promote changing bank, they started a Facebook event to change from bank! In one week 10,000 persons changed bank. These are special events that engage members. How can we use that to change the world? We also celebrate with our members, that’s an important part of building a community.

Terhi Upola

Terhi Upola
Faceless people in nursery home, presentation Terhi Upola

Terhi Upola is in YLE member of the current affairs team, where they were asked the question: is it possible to change a nursery home in four months without extra money? The care is not always as good as it should be. How cover journalists old people? Mostly the image of old people in media is faceless. And nursery homes are reluctant to accept journalists: they come, they write what is wrong and that’s it.

Let’s fix a nursery home

They started a project: is there a nursery home that needs to be fixed? Let’s do it together! 150 nursery homes applied and were willing to change. Local people visited the nursery home with their pet. This caused special moments, for instance someone who had never spoken in the  nursery home started talking about his life.
There were three coaches who coached the nurses, who had to perform several tasks, for example: list 100 things about your customer. The journalists followed the process, trying not to involve. The series is used in nursery education. Nurses started a Facebook group, where nurses and relatives share good practices.

Slide of presentation Terhi Upola