How three engagement editors connect to audiences

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by Jennifer Dorroh, International Journalists’ Network

Audience engagement and service journalism — well-researched, advice on practical matters — are taking on new importance and driving change in newsrooms during the global COVID-19 pandemic, three engagement editors said during a webinar this week hosted by ICFJ and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University

The pandemic is “a time for us to shift how we think about service journalism, and what that means to communities,” said Ebony Reed, new audiences chief at The Wall Street Journal. “Our key strategy has been to answer audience questions and to couple that with resources,” she said. During the pandemic, the news organization launched WSJ Money and WSJ Jobs to offer help and advice to readers. She thinks service journalism will help the news industry stand out and win audiences’ trust. 

Reed, along with Nabeelah Shabbir, conversation editor at The Correspondent and Chris Moran, head of editorial innovation at The Guardian, talked with ICFJ Global Research Director Dr. Julie Posetti and Tow Center Director Emily Bell about audience engagement in the time of the pandemic. 

The Correspondent, which offers perspectives from the Global South, uses a solutions journalism approach to its coverage. “Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we decided the best thing we could offer was a kind of noise-canceling service,” Shabir said. “If everybody’s trying to find out more information, it’s our role to help readers find and filter that information so that they can engage and stay informed without feeling overwhelmed and disheartened.”

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