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Community Engagement Journalism: Exploring what it means in the newsroom & in the field

Free and equitable access to accurate information is an integral condition of free expression. But disinformation, media manipulation, news deserts, and antagonism towards the press all work against the public’s access to fact-based reporting and jeopardize opportunities for journalists to foster healthy, non-transactional relationships with the community members they set out to serve. To offset these corrosive effects, news organizations have prioritized hiring community engagement editors and service journalism reporters in recent years alongside offering opportunities for their readership to interact with journalists and participate in the process of newsmaking. These efforts represent a wave of trust building experiments organized in reaction to the diminished trust in the news media that has come to characterize the present age.

Community engagement journalists help newsrooms better understand and locate information voids–spaces that are also vulnerable to disinformation–and fill them. They break down barriers, both imagined and real, between communities and those who report on them, which builds the trust necessary to freeze out disinformation.

Join PEN America and Votebeat on March 2 to hear from community engagement reporters themselves on how they approach this trailblazing work. Please contact Hannah Waltz with any questions or concerns, including accessibility requests, at [email protected].


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Thanks to our co-sponsors, the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Maria Mendez headshot

María Méndez is a reporter focused on connecting with Texans to help them navigate politics and public policy and find the resources they need. Previously, she reported on public education at the Austin American-Statesman, border and business issues at Texas Public Radio and politics and breaking news at The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, interned at The Texas Tribune as an engagement fellow and worked for The Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper. She was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, grew up in Austin and speaks Spanish.

Derrick Cain headshotDerrick Cain, Director of Community Engagement at Resolve Philly, is a Philadelphia native and is passionate about shifting the news paradigm and connecting with people to ensure accurate and authentic storytelling. Most recently, Derrick was a 2019 Reentry Think Media Justice Fellow, where he created and told stories about returning citizens that challenge stereotypes and illuminates hurdles to reentry. Derrick has several years of experience in criminal justice reform, and as a public and motivational speaker. In addition to serving as a volunteer and mentor for several organizations and continuing his personal public speaking, Derrick is the Chair of the Professional Men’s Group with Menzfit, where he helps formerly incarcerated individuals by connecting them to resources.

Annie Yu headshotAnnie Z. Yu is Politico’s director of engagement. She oversees a team that manages engagement strategy, social storytelling, off-platform distribution/partnerships and other experimental opportunities to reach new audiences and build deeper connections with readers.




Lauren Aguirre headshot Lauren Aguirre has spent her career in local news working to connect people to the information they need. She comes to Votebeat from The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she worked as audience editor for enterprise and innovation. Before that, she worked in audience and digital journalism in Arizona and Texas. A native of Texas, she graduated from Southern Methodist University.