Media Company Aims to Change the Conversation

Media Company Aims to Change the Conversation

Iowa's Gazette Company evolving journalism

Gazette Company CEO Chuck Peters says traditional media is broken. Not just its business model but its content too.

As the leader of one of America's few independently owned medium-sized media companies, Chuck has been part of conversations on reinventing journalism for more than 10 years.

 
  Chuck Peters

Not only does the revenue model not work, as dwindling advertising sales demonstrate, the content model also needs to evolve, he says.

"We were not engaging our communities as well as we could be to actually create valuable information," says Chuck.

Media companies, “need to do the hard work of examining (their) frameworks and developing new frameworks," he says.

The Gazette Company is tackling that challenge now, continuing its current work while experimenting with community-building journalism.

Community-building journalism is an effort to shift from reporting on past events to acting as a catalyst and narrator of community building. Chuck describes the approach as more co-creative; one where journalists are committed to the issues they report on, convene community and write about the constructive conversation on those issues.

One example is Iowa Transform Ed. Kindergarten to Grade 12 education is a hot topic in Iowa as schools grapple with how to ensure every student gets a world-class education.

 
  Amanda Styron presents on community-building journalism in Chicago March 11.

Two Gazette staff members are now working on Iowa Transform Ed, convening people who care about transforming education and facilitating conversations.

Earlier in the project, two journalists hosted an Ignite event where nine teachers presented their innovative education ideas in five-minute slots to an audience.

The Gazette Company is also working with its local United Way, community college and foundation to see if they're interested in adopting critical community issues.

As they do, they're asked to link back to the media company for broader distribution of stories about how they're working to build a vibrant community.

"We need to encourage the community-building work and make that information more widely available," Chuck says.

"We don't make it easy for the community to get a sense of the whole and to get a sense of who they might connect with if they were interested."

And this, according to Chuck, is the future for community journalism: providing context, understanding and connections to the public it serves.

"If you have a community where each individual can get context, develop understanding, see the connections, and decide how they want to play, then the community will be stronger, more flexible, more able to adapt and make new things happen," he says.

Chuck co-presented on community building journalism in Chicago March 11 as part of the Media Transformation Tour hosted by Newspaper Association of America, American Press Institute and the Poynter Foundation.

— More to Come

This is part of a series on innovations in journalism.

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Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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