Welcome to January’s Special Edition on care in the storytelling process. This month, community-engaged journalism consultant jesikah maria ross explores how we enact care in our reporting processes in and with communities.

I had just left nearly a decade in a public radio photo of jesikah maria rossnewsroom pushing forward community-engaged journalism practices when I attended the Future of Local News (FLN) Camp in Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 2022. Over the course of the event, the topic of care kept popping up. We talked a lot about what an “ethic of care” might look like in news organizations, and how it might be defined, acted upon and supported.

I started to think of care in journalism as a three-legged stool. One leg represented institutional care: how organizations create a culture of care with staff and volunteers. The second leg was self-care: how we attend to our own physical, emotional, spiritual and creative needs by setting limits, creating routines and engaging in practices to sustain our souls.

In the late stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when burnout was rampant in newsrooms, there were abundant conversations and resources addressing these types of care — but no one seemed to be focusing on the third leg of the stool: care in the storytelling process.

How can we center care when examining who gets to select and tell stories, how and where they are told, how stories are heard and responded to? How do we center care as we strengthen the ability for all affected (sources, audiences, community members, reporters, publishers) to understand the context in which stories are generated, not to mention the impact the content has on how people live in community?

Equally important, how might integrating care practices into our storytelling processes fuel the kind of community change that many of us are working toward? Change like a greater sense of belonging, increased trust (of each other and our organizations) and broader civic involvement to collectively address pressing issues.

Last year, with the support of FLN, I created the Care Collaboratory to explore these questions and begin defining what care in the storytelling process means for journalists and media leaders.

In this Special Edition series, I’m collaborating with the American Press Institute to share some of the ideas, resources and provocations that emerged during the six-month Collaboratory. (You can find more about the ideas that emerged from the project here.)

As we launch into a politically polarizing election cycle while climate catastrophes, racial reckonings, the housing crisis and other wicked issues unfurl around us, we need to build trust, connection and hope — within and beyond our newsrooms. Enacting care in our storytelling processes is one powerful way to move those goals forward.

Each week, I’ll share an article that points to how we can do that. Some are think pieces while others offer exercises and practical tips. All are short and to the point, followed by additional resources for those who want to dive deeper.

Care is relational. We develop it through dialogue and practice. Let’s start 2024 by expanding how we think about the role of care in our journalism. My hunch is that the more you weave care into your storytelling the more connected and resilient everyone involved will feel.

– jesikah maria ross

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