Moderator Pat Peterson, a consultant who works with groups trying to promote community involvement, asked the panelists to be "provocateurs"- to challenge audience members and spark their thinking. The panelists complied, providing deeply thoughtful remarks that are worth considering for anyone interested in civic engagement.
Lyle Wray, Executive Director, Citizens League:
"Looking at government, business and a civil society as three sectors, where is journalism? Is it another corporate sector doing bottom-line focus group research so that if grooming tips for Fluffy is what focus groups say we want that's what we get? Or is it somewhere in the center of those three, in a protected constitutional position, making sure that all three sectors are playing by the rules?
"My view is that the civic journalist is right in the middle of that and needs to look at the strengthening and weakening factors for each of those sectors and how they interact. I think that's a tremendous challenge and I think civic journalism is up to it, but it's a significant challenge."
Harry Boyte, Senior Fellow, Humphrey Institute for
"I think civic journalism is much too nice. It lets citizens off the hook...
"Citizenship used to be tied strongly to work and to work roles ... Today citizenship is defined largely as volunteerism if it's not simply voting ... I think that takes a serious notion of citizenship largely off the map. I think we need to regain a sense of citizens as bold, as creative, as co-producers, as productive ...
"That's the future of civic journalism if it's going to really create a robust civic renewal, in my judgment. It's real. It's not romantic. It's not polite. It's substantive. It takes citizens seriously in all their complexity. It doesn't sentimentalize citizens. It challenges people. It talks about power. It talks about different interests."
Sarah Lagos, Minnesota Citizens' Forum:
"Ask journalists to look at what they're writing, how they write it, what they mean, and who do they want to include and exclude from being a participant in civic engagement.
"I think journalists can and should be very accurate and careful when they write. Sometimes they are wanting to write things that are negative because they want to see it as negative."
Pat Burson, Community Reporter, St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"We, as reporters, sometimes don't spend enough time in diverse communities. So then we want to do these grandiose projects where we want civic engagement. We haven't done the footwork. We haven't spent the time in those communities establishing relationships all along. We parachute in and out when a big story comes up or some catastrophe happens.
"We need to present our communities for the way they look. They're diverse. We have people of different ages, different races, different cultures, different abilities, physical and mental. That needs to be reflected in the pages of our newspapers, not just when there are projects but on a day-to-day basis, because when we don't do that then we cheat you, the public, the reading public. We put out a reality that's false. And then you accept it and you then base your perceptions of people that you run into at the grocery store and in traffic and at work, based on things you've read in the paper. And if it's not real, then we've done you a disservice and we've done journalism a disservice."
Fred de Sam Lazaro, Executive Producer, KTCA-TV:
"When we began talking about a civic journalism partnership with the Star Tribune, one of the very first values that we saw is the ability to bring people together, regular citizens, and to be representative. How do we get people to really be representative of the state of Minnesota and participate?
"The Minnesota Journalism Center, in the person of Christina Fiebich, came up with the idea of why not latch on to the Insight/ KMOJ Public Policy Forum? That would be a means of engaging with a community that we, as the media mainstream, had had difficulty engaging with.
"I think in the media we tend to fall into this trap of saying: 'We've done that story so we don't need to revisit it.' But many of these stories are evolving. It's hard to sustain interest for the average journalist. I think a community partnership is going to be key in helping to sustain interest in things that might seem pass? to us in journalism and in newsrooms."