Listening Sessions Insights

To inform the development of the conference, the Truth and Transformation partnership convened a series of 17 listening sessions in various locations across the state of Minnesota. Through these listening sessions, we sought to broaden our collective understanding of racial narratives and the barriers preventing racial narrative change in Minnesota media. Members of the Truth and Transformation steering committee facilitated these sessions and met with groups of media professionals (including people of color/Indigenous (POCI) journalists, white journalists, and people representing community media); journalism educators; and community members (including Two Spirits and Queer-identifying people of color, youth, trauma experts, people from three separate Indigenous communities, those impacted by crime reporting, and people from several areas in Greater Minnesota). Approximately 140 individuals participated across the 17 sessions.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash.jpg

These sessions provided powerful insights into the ways that communities of color and Indigenous communities experience inaccurate racial narratives in the media – and the ways they want to see change. These sessions significantly shaped our thinking and goals as they brought us into relationship with communities across the state. They gave us a clear sense of what works, what causes harm, and what should be done to tell more accurate narratives about race in Minnesota. We pulled out themes in the data across these sessions to identify 12 insights and 12 recommendations to guide our work and yours.

interview_Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash.jpg

12 Insights from community listening sessions

1. Reducing, stereotyping, and absenting is how POCI summarize mainstream media coverage of their communities.

2. Mainstream media tell stories from the perspective of power/whiteness not from the perspective of those who are affected/marginalized. Use of experts and statistics when covering marginalized communities can be insulting and dehumanizing. The voices of real people who are close to issues should be centered. Reporters must invest time and energy in building those connections and trust within them.

3. Relationships matter. Media needs to make time and space for relationships and the learning that comes with them. Meaningful connections are important for developing sources that help convey accurate stories about POCI communities, but the sense of relationship must extend beyond stories to encompass media’s impact and practices as well.

4. POCI communities are often only covered when stories are explicitly focused on race. Justice could look like more POCI people at the center of lifestyle stories. Journalists should make more authentic connections with POCI experts and sources and normalize their presence in media.

5. Media has the power to make and break communities. Journalists need to better understand (and take responsibility for) the impacts of their stories.

6. Reporters drop in for single stories and then disappear. POCI want to see contextualization and follow up.

7. There need to be more POCI journalists and industry leaders making editorial decisions. Real stories about communities will come from people who are part of them. But we can’t rely solely on them to change strong institutional norms. Newsroom diversity is not the only answer.

8. To be a storyteller in a community that is not your own requires humility, an ability to codeswitch, and a willingness to interrogate your own subjectivity and blind spots.

9. Narratives have consequences. When accurate, they create a sense of belonging and models of success; when inaccurate, they promote fear and division.

10. POCI communities experience disparate treatment and representation in the media. Tropes, biases and hyper-/under- representation undercut trust and relationships between media and communities.

11. Media should serve an educational function for addressing complex racial narratives and historical trauma with deep roots in public life.

12. Media can portray race in ways that feel accurate, true and complex.

12 recommendations from community listening sessions

1. Cover POCI communities beyond stories about race; give representation to the everyday experiences of POCI communities in the media––even filler stories are okay!

2. Apply journalistic values and ethics by considering what “fair and accurate reporting” means within different community contexts.

3. Diversify access. Make content accessible, engaging, and relevant to POCI communities through attention to language, translation, and platforms.

4. Build trust through relationships. Show up at community events, take the time to get to know the community, and a broader source network will follow. Cultivate familial and community contacts across generations.

5. Turn critics into sources. Listen to people who share feedback about inaccurate representation of their racial communities in your reporting and try to correct the concerns they bring up.

6. Embrace a role in opening up conversations about identity.

7. Get past preconceived notions. What race looks like and how it influences people cannot be understood without first hearing from them.

8. Be informed. Do research and understand the context of a story from a multiple perspectives within a racial community before publishing. 

9. Practice (and publish) self-reflective assessments. Report on how individual stories agglomerate into narratives.

10. Be intentional about hiring more people of color and adding socioeconomic diversity.

11. Allow journalists to “proudly identify” their race/ethnicity.

12. Follow through, follow up. Revisit and return to stories and the communities they portray.