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Working in local news, it’s a word you probably hear a lot: Engagement.
“It’s the buzzword,” says Sue Robinson, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s been around for a few years now at this point, and it’s really kind of taken hold and developed into its own kind of ecosystem.”
Swirling within that ecosystem are a whole host of engagement tools, engagement metrics, and engagement initiatives. But to move beyond the buzzword, Robinson helped organize a recent symposium on the subject, inviting two journalists-turned-academics to share from their new books on engagement — and discuss what it can actually do for a newsroom’s relationship with its audience, according to their research.
“Both have been really helpful to me in trying to understand the ‘shiny’ of engagement strategies as a way to build trust,” said Robinson at the virtual talk, sponsored by UW and the University of Minnesota. “But also the problematic realities that accompany any new technique — the newsroom constraints, fickle and stubbornly polarized audiences, and also global conditions around media systems.”
Andrea Wenzel’s Community-Centered Journalism: Engaging People, Exploring Solutions, and Building Trust was released over the summer. And due out this month is Imagined Audiences: How Journalists Perceive and Pursue the Public by Jacob Nelson, an assistant professor here at our own Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU. (Wenzel and Nelson are also Knight Innovation Fellows with Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and the Knight Foundation underwrites our work as well.)