Identify key stakeholders + information needs
Who is your reporting for? Whose voices are you centering? Taking the time to consider the stakeholders who are connected to and affected by a specific issue can help you understand how you can more directly serve people with your reporting, meet their information needs and draw from a variety of perspectives.
This exercise can help you whether you're starting a new project or beat, want new ideas for sources, or are interested in understanding the different people, organizations, and communities who can inform your reporting and help you understand the system you're covering.
Review core outcomes
After this exercise, you'll walk away knowing:
The key actors and communities within the system you're reporting on;
How you can tailor your reporting to meet stakeholder needs;
Ideas for how you can include your community in your journalism.
Materials + set-up
This exercise can be done on your own or with your reporting team.
You will need: sticky notes, sharpies, and flip chart paper
Here's what you need to get started
Brainstorm your stakeholders
Start by naming as many different people as you can who are connected to the issue you're reporting on. A stakeholder could be a particular individual, an organization, geographic community, or group of people with a common trait.
The goal here is to identify as many stakeholders as possible—go for quantity. Try and get as specific as possible, writing one stakeholder per sticky note.
Here are some guiding questions to help your brainstorming:
Who is most affected by the issue?
Who is doing related work on the issue?
Who is an influencer or power broker?
Who may not be directly affected, but is still impacted in some way?
Let's say you're reporting on child support in your state. Stakeholders could include: non-custodial parents, grandparents, judges who set child support orders, a family court expert, a local nonprofit supporting parents, etc.
Identify the gaps
Add all of your sticky notes to a wall. If you're working with your team, read out your stakeholders one at a
Then take a few minutes to brainstorm any other stakeholders who may be missing. Add them to the wall.
Are you including you or your organization as a stakeholder?
Consider the role and stake
your reporting has in
Group your stakeholders into categories
Organize your stakeholders into clusters that share common traits and name the clusters. These should be natural groupings that you all agree on.
For instance, you could group stakeholders by their role: government officials, family members, community activists, etc.
Spend a few minutes looking at the different clusters and take note of whose voices have traditionally been centered and quoted in reporting on this issue, and whose have been left out.
Understanding your stakeholders
After you've identified a variety of stakeholder groups, ask yourself and your team the following questions:
How do they affect the system? How are they affected by it?
What assumptions do you have about them? What is your newsroom's relationship with them?
How could they inform your reporting, beyond being sources? How could they participate in the process?
What could they do with your journalism?
Discuss as a group and write down your answers next to each group of stakeholders.
Expand your scope
Pick at least three specific stakeholder groups from your map that you don’t have a close connection with, who are not normally centered in coverage of the issue, or who would provide a unique perspective.
After you’ve picked your three groups, write a list of questions that can help you understand:
What information they need about the issue;
Their experiences with and attitudes toward the system you’re reporting on;
How your reporting could serve them directly.
Interview three different people from the stakeholder groups you chose with those questions. These interviews can be purely informative and help you better understand your approach, producing journalism that is most relevant and useful to core stakeholders.
Create a plan to listen
With the same three stakeholder groups in mind, create a strategy for centering their information needs and experiences in the system. Here are a few questions you can discuss as a group, or reflect on individually and share-out:
Are there open and accessible spaces you can build to listen and engage with your community? (These can be in-person or digital. Consider the places that these communities currently meet and share information so you can meet them where they are.)
How can you be more accessible?
How can community members give you feedback? And how are you incorporating that feedback into your reporting?
With these ideas, how are you embedding them into the reporting process? And how can you institutionalize them into your newsroom as a whole?
This is an iterative process, one that will take refining and ongoing listening to your community. This is just a starting point to think about how you might better center your reporting on listening to those you're serving.