Our Informed Citizen Akron project is nearing its conclusion, just in time for news partners across Ohio to use the jury’s insights to strengthen their coverage in the election’s final month.
The news media has had a unique position in this election cycle, to say the least. Tasked with covering the claims and activities of presidential candidates, the media has attempted to cover two individuals who are at best distrustful of media and at worst openly hostile to it. The public tends to feel the same way towards news media, according to our Your Vote Ohio polling.
When the Your Vote Ohio project came into existence, it was part of an effort to rebuild trust in local media coverage and generate a clearer understanding of what citizens want in their political coverage. For many citizens, this look into the responsibilities and challenges of the journalistic process was shocking; by the end of the 3rd Informed Citizen Akron, the participants had created a report emphasizing the need for partnerships between citizens and local media, and the possibilities that can emerge when the partnership happens.
The setting for the final Citizens Jury shifted to the Akron Beacon Journal’s offices. For many of the participants, this was the first time they had stepped foot in the Beacon Journal’s newsroom. It was not lost on the jurors that the office felt empty – desks in the newsroom once filled by newsroom staff sat idle. Once all the participants were settled, Doug Oplinger, Managing Editor, welcomed the group and highlighted the current condition of local news media organizations.
When taking stock of all the tools that past Informed Citizen Akron jurors had been offered, jurors grouped each tool into one or more of three strategies: Social Journalism, Citizen-led Journalism, or Accountability Journalism. Each strategy was presented by experts in that area of journalism. Carrie Brown, Director of CUNY’s Social Journalism Graduate Program spoke about Social Journalism, and Jane Elizabeth, of the American Press Institute, spoke to the group about Accountability Journalism; both Brown and Elizabeth’s presentations were individual presentations. To address Citizen-led Journalism, Fiona Morgan of Free Press and Molly de Aguiar of Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation co-presented in a panelist-oriented Q&A-style setting.
The citizen jurors were tasked with identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy, and the top 3 tools that would be most useful for each strategy. Using content outlined in the 1st report and 2nd report, citizens assembled the 3rd and final report to be read by Ohioans and Ohio media organizations. Because of the strong content of past Informed Citizen Akron events, this group was able to help forge a clear path forward for journalism in Ohio.
The election season will soon be over (although not soon enough for many Ohioans), but the hard work by citizen jurors has already laid the foundation for a more collaborative and compelling media ecosystem in Ohio — presidential election or not.