The News for All project - a partnership between Media Cymru, BBC News and BBC Research & Development - is exploring how journalism can better meet the needs of people who do not currently get or see value from journalism. Central to that, is exploring how different design processes can put communities at the centre of the process, rather than on the margins - producing strong insights built over time which can better inform news products of the future.
It is comforting for us to think of journalism as an important public service - providing citizens with trusted, fact-based information which they value and appreciate. That is the assumption most of us have been working on for a long time, but the data no longer backs that up. We live in a world where both engagement and trust in journalism have collapsed and we need to understand why.
One reason may be that marginalised people and communities regard the impact of journalism’s "public service" in the same way as they regard the police - as an arm of the state, as not speaking to or for them, and having a profoundly negative impact on their lives.
That is what people in south Wales have been telling us, as part of the News for All project - shocking and uncomfortable maybe, but exactly the kind of insight we wanted to surface.
The News For All project has been identifying where mainstream journalism could do better in meeting the needs of marginalised people and communities. We are doing this using the key principles of deliberative research and ‘DesignJustice’, as proposed in Design Justice by Sasha Costanza Cook.
To explore this further, we are working with communities in Cardiff who are some of the most marginalised in Wales. We are prioritising community expertise; shining a light on what is not currently seen or reported, and the ways the communities themselves want their stories to be told.
The News For All team is comprised of researchers, and community members, all working as equals. In particular, our participatory research sessions are led by Rhiannon White and Amira Hayat, who are community members themselves. Our guiding principle is that each individual brings value and unique perspectives through their own lived experiences.
We use co-design methods to set the right tone and environment for real relationship-building and design justice to flourish. Co-design methods revolve around the prioritisation of relationships and trust, rather than prioritising getting a task completed. All activities centre around the dynamic of the people in the room, where they have come from and what stories and expertise they want to share.
The process of doing things differently started with thinking about how research like this would normally be done, and why that might not be working. We started by listing all the steps we would usually take to build a research project with people and flipped it on its head.
For example, focus groups would normally be led by an agency or BBC staff. They would be held in a BBC building, or on Zoom, and they would only run once.
Instead, News For All sessions are led by members of the community, take place in a community space, and relationships are being built over six months. We also did not attempt to recruit a so-called ‘representative sample’ but instead worked with Grange Pavilion, EYST and Common Wealth Theatre to bring together people who are often harmed or overlooked by news coverage.
Journalism is facing a multi-layered crisis, and business as usual has not been able to address the many questions that the industry is asking. Using co-design methods means we can try something different, and we get to question the balance of power and assumptions made in a research setting. As we run further sessions over the next six months we intend to challenge our default research techniques, including how we capture insights, data and analysis.
Our first and second sessions have already produced insights beyond capturing verbatim, but also the relational and emotional reactions to the subject matter, and to each other in the group. We hope that by exploring truly community-driven and -led design principles, we will create meaningful change that addresses what communities need to share their stories and feel better represented by mainstream journalism.
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