The American Press Institute has opened applications for a new year-long program to support news organizations that want to build more of their journalism based on community listening.

We’re looking for individuals who want their journalism to be better informed and inspired by their communities’ needs but who need guidance on strategies to make that happen. The goal is to empower more journalists and newsrooms to build the muscle for community listening by completing one long-term project, seeding the opportunity to spread that approach into more aspects of their newsrooms.

Interested journalists can apply by May 24 for a combination of in-person training, an expert visit to their newsroom, and remote support in completing a project designed to build this engagement skillset into one’s news organization. API will select roughly 10 journalists (reporters, editors, producers, etc.) representing different newsrooms to receive this support starting in summer 2019 and running through summer 2020.

Our commitment to this work

API’s 2018 summit convened editors, journalists and nonprofit leaders for a practical conversation on “creating a culture of listening.”

Since May 2016, API has led work on the importance of community listening in journalism today. We’ve explored how focused listening might build or rebuild trust with alienated or marginalized communities. We’ve convened thought leaders to identify paths to build a greater culture of listening in news organizations and the wider industry. And we’ve experimented with sending experienced journalists with these listening skillsets to other newsrooms to carry this learning forward. This new year-long program, supported by the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, builds on that work.

This program is built on a simple premise. Going forward, the news organizations that thrive will start by understanding the needs and concerns of the people and communities they want to serve. That is the foundation to build durable business models, orient newsroom practices and culture, and pursue accountability journalism that truly serves the public.

Who should apply

We are committed to creating a cohort that speaks to the diversity of audiences that news organizations seek to reach: varying races/ethnicities, religions, sexes, gender identities and expressions, sexual orientations, ages, disabilities, national origins, veteran status, geographies, politics and more. We are also looking for cohort members who come from a variety of news organizations, including small, medium and large outlets as well as from a variety of mediums. Journalists working in U.S. newsrooms are eligible to apply, with more details listed in the FAQ below.

What you will do as a community listening fellow

The selected journalists from different newsrooms will act as API’s community listening fellows, or the primary contacts and recipients of this support. But the program is about organizational change, and will require collaboration and buy-in from colleagues and leadership.

Community listening fellows will:

  • Attend in-person training (July 22 and 23) on community listening in news and what makes these efforts successful.
  • Receive API feedback and guidance on your listening strategy.
  • Be assigned a dedicated adviser who will visit your newsroom and support your planning on listening.
  • Learn alongside other journalists who also want to build more news on community listening.

Community listening fellows’ colleagues will also have access to aspects of the support, including remote opportunities and the newsroom visit by an adviser with deep experience in listening.

The program covers the costs of community listening fellows’ travel, lodging and meals for the two in-person gatherings. There is also no cost to newsrooms for the expert advisers’ time or the workshops at the gatherings.

To further spread the learning about how to center news creation and production on community listening, all participants in the program must commit to sharing lessons and successes from their projects publicly. (To receive these updates, sign up here.)

What’s required for the application

To apply, interested journalists will pitch a project as part of their application, with the project idea to be focused on a specific community or group the news organization wants to better understand, listen to and serve. Participants will have the opportunity to refine their idea after the in-person convening and additional support and guidance from API.

The deadline to apply is Friday, May 24 at noon ET. A basic timeline of the program follows:

  • May 24: Applications due
  • June 15: Selected participants notified by this date
  • July 22 and 23: In-person training and orientation (mandatory)
  • Fall/Winter 2019-20: Adviser newsroom visits
  • Summer 2020: Reconvene for analysis of what worked and how to carry work forward

An FAQ is included below. Interested applicants can also view a webinar recording, now posted in the FAQ section, to learn more about this opportunity. For additional questions, please contact Amy Kovac-Ashley, director of newsroom learning, at



Do I need to have done this sort of work before?

No, this program is meant to support and empower journalists and organizations that want to be doing this kind of work but don’t know how to do so exactly. Some experience is fine, of course, but applicants don’t need to be experts to be chosen as a fellow.

Is this open only to organizations of a certain size, platform or coverage area?

No, we welcome applications from any kind of news organization serving in the public’s interest (for-profit or nonprofit, a history in print or digital only, radio, TV, startup, etc.). We want our cohort of fellows to be as diverse as possible, including the types of organizations they represent and the communities they serve and cover.

Can I apply if I’m a freelancer?

Yes, but you must be working with and have the backing of a news organization. You’ll need to talk about that affiliation and support in your application.

Can I apply if I reside outside the United States?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept applicants who reside outside the United States.

What kind of time commitment is required for this project?

Fellows will meet in person twice in Washington, D.C., for about 1.5 days each, once at the beginning of the project (July 22 and 23) and once at the end (a date in late spring/early summer of 2020 to be determined by the group of fellows and API). The listening projects themselves will unfold over the course of roughly 10 to 12 months. Each fellow will be assigned a listening adviser, who will check in periodically with the fellow over the course of the year and also make one in-person visit to each fellow’s news organization to facilitate a listening workshop. Visits will be scheduled at a mutually agreed-upon time by the coach, fellow and API.

What can I expect at the in-person convening on July 22 and 23?

Listening fellows will participate in several facilitated workshop sessions about community listening. These will explore topics such as the tie between community engagement and trust, strategies to begin community listening efforts, goal setting and how to encourage leadership buy-in. Fellows will also meet the rest of the cohort and begin to share their project ideas. We want to set the stage for the cohort to support and encourage each other throughout the yearlong program.

Why do you need my manager’s sign-off?

For this program to be successful, community listening fellows and their newsroom leadership need to be on the same page and invested in the project’s success. We need to know that your news organization supports this work and is willing to let you take the time to attend the in-person sessions, accept a newsroom adviser’s visit and work on a project for the entirety of the fellowship.

Do you have funds to help me execute my project (e.g. costs to hire a freelancer, host an event, etc.)?

This program is designed to help support the success of your project, but it does not cover direct costs of your project itself. That is another reason why it’s important to get the backing of your newsroom leaders, to show that they are willing to invest the money (if necessary) and the time to do your project.

Can API help me with other projects that don’t deal with community listening?

Yes, API also facilitates a limited number of newsroom visits by expert advisers who help news organizations plan strategies around areas of improvement critical to their future success. API has sent advisers to newsrooms to help with topics as varied as podcast development to digital subscriptions. These opportunities are in addition to other ways API can help you create more audience-centered journalism. Contact Amy Kovac-Ashley, director of newsroom learning, at for further information.

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