How Civic Journalism Can Restore Trust and Create a More Inclusive EconomyA Collective Action Program for ImpactNights

The program for this month’s ImpactNights was facilitated by Anna Clark, Hunt Institute Fellow, and co-founder of the Inclusive Economy Consortium on February the 11, 2021. Anna opened the event with an introduction that set the stage for a timely discussion on civic journalism and its role in rebuilding trust.

“The year 2020 was defined by a confluence of unprecedented challenges made worse by a fractured media landscape that sows divisiveness and undermines trust,” said Clark. “A new year is an opportune moment to consider how we can use the power of the media for good in our own community.”

The panelists included four of DFW’s most committed media advocates for inclusion, each of whom edits an important outlet in our local media ecosystem:

  • Tom Huang, assistant managing editor for Journalism Initiatives at The Dallas Morning News, where he leads The News’ community-funded journalism initiative;
  • Keri Mitchell, executive director at Dallas Free Press, a non-profit she launched in early 2020 with the belief that all neighborhoods deserve reporting and storytelling that values their community and holds leaders accountable;
  • Stephanie Drenka, editor of Visible Magazine, Public Voices Fellow at The OpEd Project and communications director for Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation; and
  • Bernice Butler, publisher of Natural Awakenings Magazine, DFW’s premier green, healthy, and sustainable living publication, and executive producer of Healthy Living Healthy Planet Radio.

In their discussion, panelists shared various ways in which we can leverage the media to address systemic problems while also giving more power to the people through civic journalism. A Q&A led by Hunt Institute Senior Fellow Chris Kelly followed the panel.

Dr. Eva Csaky, executive director of the Hunt Institute and co-founder of the Inclusive Economy Consortium asked Stephanie Drenka how she sources the voices she features in her online magazine.  “A lot of it has been word of mouth,” said Stephanie.  “People who have not been given a traditional platform don’t always realize the influence they already have. So, when they share the post, it circulates more widely than they might have thought — and those readers see there is a space for their story, too.”

Stephanie added that she partners with organizations working in similar areas, underscoring the theme of media collaboration.

“The need to collaborate is more around the city’s most complex civic issues — the ones we have been talking about for 20, 30 years and haven’t seen the needle move much,” said Keri. “The Solutions Journalism Network describes it as 10 or 20 flashlights instead of one. A group of journalists focused in one direction and working in tandem can do exponentially more than one publication.”

After the event, Dr. Candice Bledsoe said that her favorite moment was when Keri Mitchell called social media an “equalizer” because organizations can leverage it for “more equitable exposure and influence.” Attendee Richard Dushl said it was “a wonderful panel about civic journalism and the coverage of local  ‘on the ground’ issues. Very motivating.”

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ImpactNights is generously sponsored by Target Corporation.

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