WHYY Civic Dialogue Summit: 5 key insights

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One hundred people gathered Friday and Saturday for the WHYY Civic Dialogue Summit: Journalism Drives Democracy. The free event was presented by WHYY News and Bridging Blocks, a partnership between WHYY and the Free Library of Philadelphia that brings together diverse households to discuss relevant community issues.

Attendees heard from seasoned journalists and media makers on topics ranging from financing options and community partnerships to best practices in engagement and facilitating civil dialogue events.

Here’s a look at key insights on how newsrooms can advance civil dialogue – and why it matters.

Panel discussion
From left to right, Sarah Glover, vice president of News and Civic Dialogue at WHYY, moderates a panel with Shawn Mooring, head of Philadelphia programs at the Lenfest Institute of Journalism, and Charles Gregory, founder of We Talk Weekly, on WHYY’s Civic Dialogue Summit 2024. (Emily Neil / WHY)

1. Build partnerships outside the newsroom

Panelists and participants agreed that to develop better and stronger relationships with diverse communities and audiences, news organizations must collaborate with non-journalistic organizations to connect with communities.

Shawn Mooring, head of Philadelphia programs at the Lenfest Institute of Journalism, spoke about the Every Voice Every Vote initiative, launching in 2022. It was the first time, Mooring said, that Lenfest made grants to non-journalistic organizations “because it was about how can we ensure that every corner of this city is reached” ahead of the 2023 municipal elections.

“(EVEV) was focused on making sure that all voices were heard, that we weren’t just going with the usual suspects and the big organizations that were going to cover the elections anyway, but really investing in making sure that communities were involved too . and view community organizations as trusted messengers,” he said.

It was important to reach voters in different parts of the city through partnerships with organizations that provide services to them, he noted, because many people have “a different level of engagement” in the places where, for example, they pick up their child after the election. school, versus news organizations they may not follow or engage with.

The goal of this type of partnership, Mooring said, is to create a reciprocal relationship. For EVEV events and stories, they focused not only on providing people with information about the elections and candidates, but also on gathering input from residents on the issues that matter most to them.

“As we move into this iteration, it’s really about community engagement: how do we ensure that the issues that have been raised in all different corners of our city are addressed, and what does that mean and how do we continue to create opportunities for people to participate in the government process,” Mooring said.