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The Purpose And Promise Of Community Engagement In Journalism At Capital Public Radio

Community Engagement in Journalism is a direct response to our charter as a public service agency. We are here to serve our community­–­to listen, to provide a space and tools to help tell stories, and to create social impact.We are using public radio to build stronger communities. At Capital Public Radio, our definition of community engagement is working collaboratively to discover, understand, and voice community needs, concerns, and aspirations.

In 1970 Bill Seimering wrote the National Public Radio mission statement, which inspires and informs our work today.

“…The programs will enable the individual to better understand himself, his government, his institutions and his natural and social environment so he can intelligently participate in effecting the process of change…a service to listeners which makes them more responsive, informed human beings and intelligent responsible citizens of their communities and the world…National Public Radio, through public affairs programs, would not only call attention to a problem, but be an active agent in seeking solutions.” 

Community engagement reflects Capital Public Radio’s core values:

  • Our Audience Comes First
  • We Embrace Change And Encourage Innovation
  • Anything Is Possible

Community engagement plays a key role in CapRadio’s News and Information Growth Plan, which states:

“We continuously connect with diverse communities. Through our technical and social innovations, we convene helpful civic conversations. We use community engagement to understand the nuances and details of what’s important to people. Our journalists use this knowledge to better serve the public. We produce meaningful reporting that has measurable impact and helps people make informed decisions.” 

The most effective stories reflect and represent our community at large, not just the Capital Public Radio core audience. Community engagement is an expectation of ourselves, and what others should expect from us.

Our work, not only what we produce, but our process of engagement, inspires and advances our community conversation. We are an interactive forum for change. We can create change in public debate, policies, understanding, and how people relate to each other. Our commitment to community engagement plays a key role in how we report.

The process of community engagement helps us discover, develop and report the stories that impact and inspire. It is how we make sure the voices in our stories are as diverse as our community. These stories are woven into our landscape, our culture and our personal connections, often in ways we aren’t aware.

Community engagement is a wraparound approach to more respectful, participatory, and transformative storytelling. It runs parallel to our reporting and doesn’t end when the story is aired. It keeps the story going as we–our team, the subjects of our stories, and our listeners­–learn, understand and act.

Community engagement also helps us develop a richer pool of sources, as we develop new and valuable relationships, engaging partners beyond our go-to experts. Our sources will reflect the diversity of our region, not just our existing contacts.  At the same time we uphold traditional reporting principles (i.e. objectivity, balance, two source confirmation, healthy skepticism, etc.)

Telling the stories of the whole community, including those whose lives may differ from ours, is a necessary act of public media journalism. We must meet our storytellers where they live, to amplify their voices, and bring our listeners with us. As public radio journalists, we are driven to dig deeper. This can only happen, authentically and respectfully, with a commitment to the process of community engagement.

We are media makers, and to be awake in the world and in our work is to share what we see with others; not only the struggles and conflicts, but the joys and connections in people’s lives. We need to reach further than our radio signals cover ­–to places where we do not live, where our community is most diverse, sometimes challenged, and where our work can be of value.

Community engagement takes time, patience, new skills, and a genuine commitment to collaboration. It requires flexibility –as our projects will evolve, providing new opportunities, and sometimes taking new directions. It requires an investment in relationships and the time to develop trust and loyalty. It requires creativity as we explore how to tell a story with a different viewpoint, and how to build the partnerships to share it in a new and meaningful way. It requires a team, working together, to turn a story inside out, and deliver something unexpected and extraordinary–a story that will make a difference in someone’s life.

As we are developing and reporting our stories, we are building relationships and connections, and serving our community.  This is the public service that public radio can uniquely deliver. Bringing together journalists, community leaders, and those directly affected by social issues, to collectively report on a story, generates journalism that can change minds and empower communities.

Kim Tackett contributed to this document. 

Joe Barr

Chief Content Officer

As Chief Content Officer, Joe Barr is CapRadio’s strategic leader for content creation and distribution on all station platforms, including CapRadio News, CapRadio Music and   Read Full Bio 

Paul Conley

Managing Editor, Music and Arts

Paul oversees CapRadio's music formats on our radio stations and digital streams. He also supervises the creation of music and arts content across departments and platforms, including  Read Full Bio 

Catherine Stifter

Former Senior Producer, The View From Here

Catherine Stifter was Senior Producer of our acclaimed documentary series, The View From Here, until 2018. She also contributed to large-scale, department-wide projects such as our year-long examination of undocumented immigration.  Read Full Bio 

jesikah maria ross

Senior Community Engagement Strategist