Civic Journalism: Six Case Studies
A Joint Report by The Pew Center for Civic
Journalism and The Poynter Institute for Media Studies
Edited by Jan Schaffer and Edward D. Miller
Reported by Staci D. Kramer
Our nation's civic life is in disrepair and the implications for journalism are
ominous: Citizens who don't participate in the life of their community have little
need for news. Civic journalism seeks to address some of this detachment and improve
journalism in a way that may help stimulate civic discourse.
In the award-winning "Taking Back our Neighborhoods/Carolina Crime Solutions"
initiative, the newspaper partnered with television and radio in an ambitious
project that went far beyond traditional crime coverage and into the neighborhoods
most affected by violence. The community response has been overwhelming.
Whether using citizen caucuses or citizen juries, inviting citizens to interrogate
gubernatorial candidates or listening to "closing arguments" of state Supreme Court
candidates, "We the People, Wisconsin" has bypassed formulaic journalism and given
citizens creative ways to interact with politicians and with each other.
In one of the country's most complex exercises in civic journalism, "The Public
Agenda" project has elected to focus not on an election or a single issue, but rather
has sought to launch ongoing community dialogues on all elections and issues that
affect the community.
"The People's Voice" was an experiment in giving citizens an active role in political
campaigns. Like most experiments, it had hits, misses and lessons. But the idea
survived to be tried again in the 1996 presidential campaign.
The "Voice of the Voter" had several high-water marks. It enabled several thousand
readers, listeners and viewers to participate in the election. It used the power of
the press to force political candidates to listen -- and respond -- to what the
had to say. And it gave birth to a newspaper-led voter registration drive.
In the "Front Porch Forum," the media partners built a veritable front porch where
residents could talk to political candidates and to each other and where a poll picked
up unexpected anxieties about the future of the family and affordable housing.
Call the Pew Center at (202) 331-3200 for project contact information.
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