A project of Democracy Fund
The Local News Lab has been archived as of March 1, 2023. This page will remain online but will not be updated. More info.

June 7, 2019

Five tips for successful collaborations between newsrooms and researchers

Illustration by Melinda Szekeres

By Jessica Mahone

Relationships between newsrooms and researchers can make local journalism better. But it takes work, listening and regular communication. Those were some of the main points at a panel on the topic held at a conference about engaged journalism held prior to the annual International Communication Association meeting in May.

The engaged journalism pre-conference was led by Andrea Wenzel and Jacob Nelson and covered research on use of engagement tools like Hearken and Groundsource and relationship building between journalists and audiences. An annotated bibliography of the research discussed is available here.

The event closed with a panel and plenary session about relationships between newsrooms and researchers. The panel was moderated by Alicia Bell of Free Press and featured Talia Stroud of the Center for Media Engagement, Andrea Wenzel of Temple University, Sandra Clark of WHYY, and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky of Resolve Philadelphia. The panel emphasized that newsroom partnerships with researchers require listening and regular and efficient communication.

The panel and follow-up discussions generated five key takeaways for successful collaborations between newsrooms and researchers that we thought were worth sharing.

5 Tips for Collaborations between Newsrooms and Researchers

  1. Research should be based on what the newsroom is doing rather than by asking newsrooms what they want to study. By listening to newsrooms, researchers will find what needs to be answered.
  2. Newsrooms most benefit from research projects that include an intervention or that can offer recommendations for practices.
  3. Audience and community are not the same thing. Language is important at all stages of a research project, especially when the project includes or describes marginalized communities.
  4. Who is brought into a partnership and who is not sends a signal to communities, especially when a project includes an intervention.
  5. One of the simplest ways researchers can help newsrooms is by making sure research reports are available and accessible, not behind paywalls and in plain, clear language.

The panel emphasized that while it isn’t always easy, it can pay off. Want to read more about how these two fields can come together? These articles give some ideas: