The American Press Institute is grateful for the contribution of 10 engaged journalism experts who are advising journalists and news organizations in our Community Listening Fellowship.

The fellowship, supported by a one-time grant from the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School for Journalism at CUNY, empowers 10 journalists and their newsrooms to start more journalism from a place of community listening. A key component is the pairing of each fellow with an engagement expert who provides guidance both through an in-person visit and then advice from afar through summer 2020.

The following people are supporting our fellows as advisers in 2019-20:

Ashley Alvarado, Southern California Public Radio
Advising Sami Edge and Idaho Education News

Sarah Alvarez, Outlier Media
Advising Mazin Sidahmed and Documented

Stephanie Carson, Carolina Public Press
Advising Felicia Mason and Houston Chronicle

Corinne Chin, Seattle Times
Advising Yoshi James and San Francisco Chronicle

Michelle Ferrier, Florida A&M University
Advising James Causey and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Antonia Gonzales, National Native News
Advising Nicky Ouellet and Yellowstone Public Radio

Nation Hahn, EducationNC
Advising Steve Mencher and Northern California Public Media

Andrea Hart, City Bureau
Advising Eric Falquero and Street Sense Media

Tasneem Raja, new to-be-named Oakland newsroom
Advising independent journalist Kamna Shastri

Vanessa Vancour, recently of University of Nevada-Reno
Advising Liliana López Ruelas and La Estrella de Tucsón / Arizona Daily Star

“We are honored to have the involvement of so many people creating a path forward for journalism to better serve all communities,” said Amy Kovac-Ashley, API vice president and senior director. “This arrangement helps engagement leaders impart their wisdom in a meaningful way to news organizations that want to begin or iterate upon this work, and we love making those connections happen.”

Fellowship projects focus on communities such as Latino students and families in rural Idaho, a historically African American neighborhood in a large metropolitan area, Native American communities across a large rural state, and people experiencing homelessness in the nation’s capital.

In 2019, more than 50 newsrooms applied for the program, which includes year-long support in developing skills and processes to listen to communities they want to better serve. In addition to help from the advisers, API has organized workshops and other development opportunities to help selected newsrooms toward this end.

All fellows receive in-person, two-day visits from journalists with deep experience in community listening in news. During the visits, these expert advisers lead conversations and sessions to help fellows as well as newsroom colleagues advance a community listening project in their newsroom. After the visit, fellows receive regular remote check-ins and support from their advisers through June 2020.

“One of the aspects of the listening fellowship that I most appreciate is the clear understanding that introducing an engaged journalism approach to your work takes time,” said Ashley Alvarado, director of community engagement at Southern California Public Radio and fellow Sami Edge’s adviser for the fellowship. “It’s not about flipping a switch but rather learning how to listen to community members differently, pivoting your work to meet their information needs and habits, and understanding that it really is work. It’s a decision you have to make every step of the way, and that’s what I have seen Sami do. We’ve also spent time exploring the metrics that allow her to set and meet outcome goals.”

“Ashley’s mentorship has been an invaluable part of this fellowship,” said Edge, a reporter whose project at Idaho Education News is a collaboration with the Idaho Statesman focused on Latino students and families in the state. “She has helped me create a community listening plan that is far more sophisticated than anything I could have thought up alone, and helped me articulate the importance of this work. I’m grateful to be able to draw on her expertise as a trailblazer in engaged journalism.”

In addition to expert adviser support, fellows and newsroom colleagues can participate in video conversations with other leaders in community listening and engagement. David Plazas, opinion & engagement director USAT Network Tennessee, spoke this fall with fellows about logistics for organizing in-person listening events. Andrew Haeg, founder of GroundSource, spoke with fellows in January about how texting can create more opportunities to listen to audiences.

“We’re excited to see where the second half of this fellowship takes these news organizations, and the impact it has on the culture of their newsrooms and the communities they serve,” said Kevin Loker, API director of program operations and partnerships. The fellows will reconvene in June 2020, the second in-person gathering for the fellowship, to share successes and challenges and review plans to build upon their project after the fellowship ends. “The goal here is to learn while doing and build capacity and confidence to practice community listening as an essential part of journalism today.”

For several years, API has led conversations on how journalists can and must create processes to hear from and understand communities they have alienated or inadequately served. In 2020, API will devote additional programming beyond the fellowship for exploring what addressing this need should look like against the backdrop of an industry-wide shift to reader revenue.

If you’d like to stay in the loop when we have more updates about this fellowship program, including lessons from the fellows themselves, sign up here. For questions, contact Amy Kovac-Ashley at

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