News for US

Citizen-Centered Journalism (First Edition)
Paula Lynn Ellis, Paul S. Voakes, and Lori Bergen
©2022, 236 pages

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News for US

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    In the midst of the disruptions and distrust that have plagued traditional media in recent years, and a degree of polarization rarely seen in American history, a new style of journalism is emerging. Dozens of news organizations, from corporate powerhouses to home-office startups, are reviving a classic role of American journalism: inspiring and enabling Americans to do the difficult, authentic, and ultimately rewarding work of citizenship in a democratic society.

    News for US: Citizen-Centered Journalism is the first-ever guide to this new approach—one that enriches the skill set of the 21st-century journalist with the mindset of civic engagement. Authors Paula Lynn Ellis, Paul S. Voakes, and Lori Bergen illuminate the principles of citizen-centered journalism and demonstrate how today’s journalists can apply them within the context of modern-day news and feature reporting. The text features engaging perspectives from leading innovators and experimenters in the field, who describe their challenges and offer guidance to readers.

    Offering readers a blend of academic scholarship and case studies that highlight practical innovations, News for US provides readers with a comprehensive look at the emergence of citizen-centered journalism and the new journalistic mindset.

    Paula Lynn Ellis (M.A., Northwestern University), a former senior media executive, foundation executive, and journalist has long been a leader in journalism innovation, transformative change, and community engagement. She worked for Knight Ridder for 26 years, as a reporter, editor, managing editor, publisher and corporate vice president for operations. In 2006, she became vice president for strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, where she led transformative change efforts in journalism and communities, national grantmaking and evaluation. Ellis is a senior associate at the Kettering Foundation, trustee of the Poynter Institute, and a director of the National Conference on Citizenship.
    Paul S. Voakes (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin – Madison) is a professor emeritus at the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. Voakes served on the faculty of the School of Journalism at Indiana University from 1994 to 2003, when he became dean of School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Colorado. He is a co-author of The American Journalist in the 21st Century: U.S. News People at the Dawn of a New Millennium and Working with Numbers and Statistics: A Handbook for Journalists. Before becoming an educator, Voakes was a newspaper journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years.
    Lori Bergen (Ph.D., Indiana University-Bloomington) is founding dean of the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she holds the James E. de Castro Chair in Global Media Studies. As leader of CU Boulder’s first new college in more than 50 years, Bergen’s focus is on the interdisciplinary approach to media, communication and information education. Bergen came to Colorado from Marquette University, where she was dean of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication and the William R. Burleigh and E.W. Scripps Professor. Bergen is co-author of Media Violence and Aggression: Science and Ideology.
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    "This book is radical in the best possible way. It takes a fresh look at the only profession protected in the U.S. Bill of Rights—the press—and evaluates the current multi-layered information network that is available to anyone for free. It asks, in essence, what is it that journalists bring to the party? The answer is “a lot.” But this book does more than engage in a defensive litany of the burdens of the media. Instead, provocatively, it asks journalists to consider a different set of professional norms than those that prevailed for the last century or so."
    An excerpt from Maura Casey's article and review "The Future of News really is News for US" in the National Civic Review
    Read the full article HERE

    "News for US cuts through the jargon and hotly debated ideological arguments surrounding the role of journalists in our society today and provides both veterans and novices with a practical step-by-step guide for 'building the bridges' that allow us to 'connect'—not merely 'engage'—with our readers, viewers, and listeners at a critical time for news and our democracy. The authors provide a philosophical underpinning to their numerous well-written case studies that builds on the principles, evolution, and innovations of 20th century journalism. This timely and well-reasoned book should encourage stimulating conversation in classrooms and newsrooms about how journalists in the 21st century can best serve democracy and the ordinary citizen, including the underserved, ignored, distrustful and disaffected.”
    Penelope Muse Abernathy, Visiting Professor, Northwestern University’s Medill School
    Knight Chair Emerita in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at UNC’s Hussman School
    Author of The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur and News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?

    "In this refreshing take on the practice of journalism, Paula Ellis, Paul Voakes, and Lori Bergen make the case that journalists have to think and act differently if they are to fulfill their crucial role in democracy—and if they are to survive. The 'relational journalism' that they propose is part traditional journalism, part citizen journalism, and part something altogether different—journalists as facilitators for citizen action. News for Us is practical, provocative, and deeply reported. It is the right book at the right time."
    Kristin Gilger, Interim Dean, Reynold Professor in Business Journalism, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University

    "News For Us couldn't come at a better time. As journalism charts a new path toward deeper relationships with the communities it serves, this text should become required reading for practitioners and students. News For Us offers a solid conceptual framework and valuable skills for building the kind of journalism that can more effectively contribute to democratic life."
    Regina G. Lawrence, Associate Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, Research Director of the Agora Journalism Center, University of Oregon

    "News for Us is a compelling and perfectly timed book for this critical moment for journalism and our self-governed democracy. The business model underpinning local news in America is in crisis, creating the need for an existential reset of how journalism is both practiced and supported. This book offers tangible ideas – and anecdotal examples – of a pathway for journalism that could be healthier for the industry and the nation’s civic life. At a time when local news is at a historic inflection point, these three highly regarded journalists and scholars have framed an optimistic future for how journalism can continue to thrive and better serve communities by better engaging citizens.
    Tim Franklin, Senior Associate Dean, John M. Mutz Chair in Local News, Director of the Medill Local News Initiative, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication, Northwestern University

    "We live in an age of 'vending machine' government which turns productive citizenship into consumer democracy and government’s role into delivering services to customers. Media, as well as colleges, schools, even nonprofits all too often follow suit. News for US, authored by three leaders in the movement for citizen-centered journalism, represents a brilliant challenge to this narrowing of democracy and points toward a vibrant alternative, democracy as a way of life for us all. Walt Whitman wrote long ago, 'We have frequently printed the word Democracy. Yet I cannot too often repeat that it is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened. It is a great word, whose history remains unwritten.' This book helps us all to write that history."
    Harry C. Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy, Augsburg University and the Institute for Public Life and Work

    "News For US is a guide for the transformation of the journalist's role. It imagines a journalist as a community servant using words as foundational stones of democracy—the kind of words written by a citizen who knows what we all need to know if we are to be effective in our own citizenship."
    John McKnight, Professor Emeritus, Northwestern University
    Cofounder, The Asset Based Community Development Institute

    "This book flips the traditional 'gatekeeping' approach to journalism on its head. Instead of focusing on formal government activities and public affairs sources, this contemporary 'relational journalism' approach centers around readers’ needs, working collaboratively with them through discourse to help expose, describe, and address local communities’ complex issues of concern. An overdue, hopeful, and welcome addition to journalism pedagogy, this textbook honors the tradition of journalism, while helping to inspire and guide our next generation of reporters and editors."
    Diana Martinelli, Ph.D., Dean and Widmeyer Professor in Public Relations, Reed College of Media, West Virginia University

    "This revolutionary textbook argues convincingly that relationships matter because journalists are partners with 'the people.' Rather than throw out the time-honored values of journalism, the authors write that journalists must 'refresh' those traditions to support an actively engaged public that cares about our democracy. News for Us provides a roadmap for advanced students to practice this new kind of journalism, even sprinkling a glossary of key concepts throughout the text. This book could change journalism—and our democracy."
    Jerry Ceppos, William B. Dickinson Distinguished Professor, Former Dean, LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication
    Former Executive Editor of the San Jose Mercury News and Vice President for News of Knight Ridder Newspapers

    "News for US is a wonderful resource, not just for journalists, but for any leader in government, education, or civic organizations looking to elevate the quality of public discourse by partnering with local newsrooms to take on the many challenges communities are facing such as misinformation, cynicism, and polarization. In this both hopeful and realistic book, Ellis, Voakes, and Bergen provide multiple paths and examples for communities to reimagine local journalism in a way that taps into new innovative ideas while also preserving critical time-honored journalistic traditions."
    Martín Carcasson, Ph.D., Professor, Communication Studies Department
    Director, CSU Center for Public Deliberation, Colorado State University

    "For years, I’ve heard both journalists and journalism educators complain about the traditional news focus on conflict and question the accepted wisdom that journalists must distance themselves from their communities to be capable of providing fair and balanced coverage. However, News For Us is the first textbook I’ve ever seen that clearly and comprehensively addresses how these two traditions have negatively affected both news organizations and their communities. Even more importantly, however, Ellis, Voakes, and Bergen offer a compelling argument for adding relational journalism as, at the least, a complement to those traditional approaches. In addition, the book explains concrete, realistic practices students (and working journalists) can adopt that can help news organizations rebuild not only their relationships with their communities but the practice of democracy itself. And the case studies included in the book help to demonstrate the real impact such changes can have, benefitting both news organizations and the public they serve."
    Kim Walsh-Childers, Ph.D., Professor of Journalism, University of Florida

    "Journalistic practice, despite wide-scale experimentation in the early 2020s, still precariously stands at a crossroads. Against this landscape, News for Us: Citizen-Centered Journalism admirably and eloquently maps out hopeful directions for the industry and its practitioners. Grounded in media history and communications theory, the authors expertly illustrate how news production and democratic life are intricately intertwined. With equal parts instruction and inspiration, the rich case study examples populating this well-structured narrative contextualize exactly why press-public collaboration matters today. Taken together, News for US stands as an accessible must-read roadmap for both scholars and students, who are navigating community-based reporting in the digital age."
    Jan Lauren Boyles, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Education, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University

    "Even during this time of crisis for news and democracy, many inventive journalists are developing and strengthening new models. They help people define and address public problems without telling their audiences what to do. Updating practices that have deep historical roots, these journalists offer 'relational journalism' for an age of digital media. In News for Us, Ellis, Voakes, and Bergen offer a readable, deeply reported, and inspiring guide to this movement, and how to be a part of it."
    Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Tufts University's Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life
    Author ofWe Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America

    "At a time when the innovative boundary of journalism has become exploration of new procedures and practices, News for Us defines a new model called relational journalism that deserves its place alongside better-known approaches such as solutions-based and participatory models. Relational journalism's unique value is its focus on developing a particular attitude, or mindset, about the role journalists should play in facilitating community engagement. This is accompanied by description of the practices to accomplish this, along with anecdotes and case studies of journalistic innovators whose work illustrates that the ideas are practical rather then merely theoretical. This makes News for Us a must-read for anyone interested in journalistic innovation or transformation."
    Jack Rosenberry, St. John Fisher College
    Author of Community Media and Identity in Ireland; Applied Mass Communication: A Guide for Media Practitioners; andPublic Journalism 2.0: The Promise and Reality of a Citizen-Engaged Press

    "News for US: Citizen-Centered Journalism is a well-researched book that outlines what's on the horizon for journalism. The book's three authors, Paula Lynn Ellis, Paul Voakes, and Lori Bergen speak from professional experience and diverse backgrounds that emphasize the importance of relational journalism and how to succeed in today's rapidly changing media environment. Their toolkit for a professional realignment includes collaborating with readers rather than using a top-down approach and the importance of civic engagement. The book ends on a positive note that offers optimism for the future of journalism."
    Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media, Baylor University

    "Too much of the hand-wringing commentary about journalism today treats the news media as nothing more than a profession and a money-making enterprise. In News for US, Paula Ellis, Paul Voakes, and Lori Bergen take a broader view, explaining how journalism is part of a public square that is itself evolving. They show how the journalism that met the needs of 20th Century democracy is changing into an enterprise that supports—and is nourished by—the new forms of 21st Century democracy. They make the case that 'Journalism is more productive and promising when the thinking of citizens is the first thought rather than the afterthought,' and throughout the book they illustrate the numerous ways that innovative journalists are re-centering their work around the needs and goals of the people they serve."
    Matt Leighninger, Vice President for Public Engagement, Director of the Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment
    Author of Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy
    Read the article “The Future of News really is News for US” in the National Civic League, in which Maura Casey reviews the book News for US and its importance in paving the way for the future of journalism.

    Listen to the New Books in Journalism podcast episode featuring an interview with News for US coauthor Paula Lynn Ellis. During the interview, Paula discusses the essential role of journalism within democracy and the importance of citizen-centered journalism.