Donna Ali and Shirish Kulkarni wrapping up a session with PNI/EYST

Credit: Jessica Perkins, via TBIJ

For too many people and communities, journalism has a negative, rather than a positive impact on their lives. This is not just about "historic marginalisation" — many mainstream media organisations continue to other, attack and harm people who do not fit their increasingly narrow definition of "acceptability".

In that environment, it is entirely rational for the "victims" of those harms to reject that kind of journalism and what it does. They do not want or need it. And while this can be difficult to hear, it is only by being honest about the current role of journalism in most people's lives that we can understand how and why it might have value.

What people do want is community power that they can build and grow themselves. We believe journalism – that is reimagined and reclaimed – can be a source of community power and that is what we sought to explore with our People’s Newsroom pilot in Wales over the course of a year.

The People’s Newsroom is a programme incubated at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) which is exploring the resources needed to build, run and sustain newsrooms that diversify media ownership and authentically represent communities.

For years at the Bureau Local, we have been providing shared editorial and investigative resources that support the reimagining of journalism that is created by, with and for communities. But we knew more needed to be done to support those ill-served and underserved by the media industry to kickstart more diverse, community-led journalism entrepreneurship.

So over the past 12 months, we have run a pilot to support the emergence of new journalism leaders from marginalised backgrounds in order to support a new journalism pipeline.

What worked

Our key learning from the training was that participants were particularly inspired and engaged by the forward-thinking modules. They loved the systems thinking training as it was an opportunity to go beyond the "what" – not just to the "why" and "ho" things are happening.

They also enjoyed the solutions journalism module as it took them a step further to how things could be fixed. It was in these modules that we saw how the switch flipped — suddenly they started to see how journalism could be a positive force in their lives, giving them agency and power and a route to sparking change for themselves and their communities.

Our aim was to help create a new generation of emerging leaders, people from diverse backgrounds who understand the power they have and how to use it in the service of themselves and their communities. For that reason, when assessing the impact of the program, we did not ask participants whether they could now write an article, or film and edit a video.

Before and after the training, we asked them how accessible they felt journalism was, how useful they thought it could be for their community and how confident they felt about personally creating positive change for their communities (and to rank out of five).

On all those measures, the impact of the training was significant – the scores nearly doubled after the training. They now found journalism more accessible and more useful and they were now more confident they personally could be involved in positive change.

It is this kind of change that we see as deep, long-term and systemic. There are no easy answers or quick fixes for the problems we have identified, so it feels important to focus on interventions that can spark genuine and lasting transformation.

Read the full post on TBIJ's website

Shirish Kulkarni is the community organiser for TBIJ and a freelance journalist with more than 25 years of experience working for major UK broadcasters.

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