Reporters, Producers and Writers

Be fair to all subjects of a story while making every effort to avoid false equivalencies.

Expand circles of influencers so that the newsroom is hearing from all segments of the community. Seek out voices that are seldom heard and remain open to viewpoints with which you may personally disagree.

Endeavor to know what different groups within local communities are talking about on any given day. Develop listening posts throughout the community, including online and social media conversations as well as gathering spots where you can discover ways of thinking and ways of life that may not be reflected in your newsroom. Differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, income and education can influence where, how and whether people share their interests and concerns. The journalist’s job is to reflect a community back to itself and keep the public in constant conversation with itself.

Look for occasions to reflect the diversity of the community through daily news coverage. When contacting authoritative sources, consider who you always turn to and who else you can consider. Do not speak to racial and ethnic minorities only for stories about race and ethnicity.

Look for occasions to make news coverage culturally sensitive and culturally competent. Coverage is not “one-size-fits-all.” Invite people into your newsroom to explain aspects of local history and culture, especially from the perspective of someone who has lived the experience.

When a story includes a reference to race or ethnicity, explain why the race or ethnicity is key to the story. For example, if two people are in a fight at a bar and one is white and one is black, race is significant only if the fight is about race. If they are fighting over a football game, then loyalty to a team may be more important.

Understand social media and know which platforms to use and how to use them well. Social media are powerful tools for connecting with audiences. Pew Center research shows that an estimated two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites and digital applications. With myriad sources available, vetting of social media content – especially user-generated content – has never been more important.

Keep abreast of constantly evolving social media language to avoid potentially embarrassing mistakes. Question words and phrases you do not fully understand rather than assume to know what they mean.

Integrate fact checking into routine, real-time newsgathering processes.

Use social media to connect with newsmakers. Given that community leaders, organizers and activists frequently use social media to interact with constituents and followers, social media can provide valuable information when looking to communicate with these individuals.

Be mindful that words matter and what may be common vernacular in one community can be offensive in another.

Be careful about the use of descriptive words that overstate a situation or conjure up a negative mental picture. For instance, during coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some media outlets erroneously described New Orleans residents who had evacuated the city as “refugees,” which usually connotes armed or political conflict. Similarly, words and phrases such as "disadvantaged," "high-risk" and "inner city" can create negative feelings in some communities.

Create structured processes for engaging the entire community as well as various segments within the community before a crisis of major incident occurs.

Develop a comprehensive database of diverse sources across a broad spectrum of topics, including experts, politicians, public servants, practitioners, professionals, activists, community organizers, etc. Journalists rely on sources to provide information about things that are occurring or may happen in the future, making source development essential. Foster in-person relationships with each of these sources to build mutual trust that can be counted on when needed. Social media can be valuable tools in identifying existing and emerging leaders.

Develop a list of organizations with which the station should maintain a positive, ongoing relationship and make plans to meet with their leaders. Ask for invitations to their meetings and invite them to visit the station.

Ensure that your storytelling addresses and reflects the diversity of your community. In-depth knowledge of your audience demographics will help.

Identify and engage with diverse groups across the community as a way of facilitating conversations about covering communities whose members believe they are underrepresented in some types of coverage and overrepresented in other types. Bringing people from these communities into the station environment and sharing information about newsgathering processes can help build mutual trust and improve coverage. Some of these individuals will become much-needed eyes and ears within their neighborhoods and they can provide valuable feedback on how the station is being perceived.

Develop and nurture relationships with public service and safety agencies as well as existing and emerging community organizations. Be as transparent as possible with them about how editorial decisions are made.

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