Ideas and Possibilities Abound at MSU's 2018 Collaborative Journalism Summit

Jessa Henschel

Jessa Henschel

Jessa Henschel:
I was fortunate to attend last week's Collaborative Journalism Summit at Montclair State University, and found it wonderfully informative and engaging.  Presented by MSU's Center for Cooperative Media, the conference was held Thursday to Friday, May 10 -11 at the School of Communication & Media, a facility so beautiful it might spoil some students. The conference included panels, "lightning talks" (5 minutes max), and workshops about shared reporting projects, larger partnerships, and goal-setting strategies.

Between the scheduled sessions, there were plenty of opportunities to network and meet people from a variety of news organizations, from small hyper-local news sites to public broadcasters like WNYC. Collaboration was not only the conference theme, but a part of the conference design and structure. In the breakout sessions, groups of people worked together and offered ideas about projects that reached beyond what they could achieve themselves.

One speaker, Liza Gross, Vice President of Solutions Journalism Network, presented a discussion/workshop on her own “Collaborative Playbook,” a step-by-step guide to implementing collaborative reporting projects.  Liza defines “solutions journalism” as news that "includes or encourages responses to challenges."  She stressed that having two or more news organizations approaching a topic and informing the community makes for more impactful journalism. (I'd also heard Liza speak at a recent CivicStory forum, and was again impressed by her incredible insight into newsrooms and news content.)

She emphasized that creating specific frameworks for solutions-based collaboration is essential for the journalism field, and helps to achieve broader goals of public awareness and engagement.   

I believe conferences like these are important because they bring together organizations and individuals with a passion for positive change.  In my view, news too often assumes citizens are in a political camp, rather than encouraging us to look toward the betterment of our society as a whole. I hope that through more such gatherings, journalists and news organizations can help motivate the general public, so that more people will get involved in improving their communities and regions.   

As I look toward graduate school next fall, I'd like to see a shift from issues-based and often  “depressing” news (to quote my friends) to solutions-based news that encourages problem solving and action.

Jessa Henschel graduated from Skidmore College in Psychology and will attend The School of Visual Arts for a Masters in Art Therapy in the fall. She works for the Newark Museum and is a public relations assistant for CivicStory.

Notes from our Intern Augusta Imperator:

At the Collaborative Journalism Summit at Montclair State, I attended Liza Gross’s talk entitled, “Solutions Journalism Network Presents a Playbook for Collaborative Journalism.” The talk began by defining solutions journalism to be, “rigorous, evidence-based reporting on responses to societal challenges,” with the goal of providing the public with the full picture of the story at hand. From there Liza outlined a collaborative to be “two or more news organizations and others working together for the purpose of better informing and engaging their community on a topic or area of coverage.”

The story that Liza spoke about was the Reentry Project, a one and a half year effort of news organizations and academic institutions in Philadelphia to report on released prisoners' reentry into society. The takeaway that Liza intended for the audience was that solutions journalism and collaboratives are a “match made in heaven.” Her point was that if you want to accurately and successfully cover a story from all angles, the best way to do it is in a collaborative setting. 

Augusta Imperator is a graduating senior at Oak Knoll School, and a CivicStory intern. She will attend Boston College this fall.