With surveys revealing the public's decreasing trust in the media, news organizations are actively responding to the call for a more civic conscious journalism. News consumers are growing increasingly critical and are asking for more opportunities to have their opinions heard by news sources.
Dr. James Castonguay, associate professor and chair of Sacred Heart University's Department of Media Studies and Digital Culture, who helped oversee the university's recent media reliability study, elaborated on readers becoming more active and responsible news consumers.
"We have some critical citizens who are not naively accepting as truth the news they consume," he said, in an interview with the Poynter Institute. "Maybe people see themselves as taking a more responsible and active role in the democratic process to check sources and be more active consumers of news,” Castonguay explained.
Websites like the French Vudesquartiers.journalisme.co, launched by Jérôme Bouvier, president of the Association of Journalism and Citizenship, hope to improve the relationship between journalists and inhabitants of local neighborhoods. A previous Weblog posting discussed how the goal of the project is to reinstate public trust in journalism, and encourage reporters to work closely with the people they cover.
The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. has undertaken a similar challenge in providing readers with a forum for community feedback. With its online feature “The Transparent Newsroom”, the Spokesman-Review offers readers the chance to voice criticism, needs and concerns they may have about the paper's content or editorial choices.
Some highlights include an “Ask the Editors” section, where Spokesman editors field readers' questions about the paper's operations and editorial processes. A live webcast of daily newsroom meetings and a total of 10 blogs encourage readers to observe and participate in the quotidian operations of the paper.
Spokesman-Review editor Steven A. Smith expressed why the paper has taken on such a strong civic responsibility.
"Journalists always retain the right to say no. Transparency is not the same as passivity," Smith said. "When you're as open as we are, it's possible to engage in a debate with readers in ways that we couldn't in the past. When people pitch us an idea it still has to be vetted in all the ways that stories do: Is it important enough? Does it match up with our values?" he said.
While becoming 'transparent' allows for sometimes unwanted criticism, Ryan Pitts, online director for the Spokesman maintains that the challenge is worth it. The Spokesman's undertaking, editors hope, will represent a trend towards fostering a more democratic relationship between readers and news organizations.
Source: Poynter Institute