Build audience engagement and trust with a community advisory board
In June 2020, Long Beach Post publisher David Sommers wrote that he was forming a community advisory board for his publication. “It is a rarity today for media organizations to invite community members to have this kind of role in local journalism,” Sommers wrote, “but it’s something I believe adds value to everyone working at the Post and to our community.”
Recently, CBC Manitoba put out a call for its own advisory board. McClatchy has done the same. The idea isn’t ubiquitous yet, but in this time of polarization and lack of trust in news, these advisory boards can be a useful way for newsrooms to add context and perspective that accurately represent the readers they report on and serve.
At the Long Beach Post, board members serve in the role for one year. Members write opinion columns related to their own areas of expertise and act as advisers on official editorials. At CBC Manitoba, board members provide general guidance not just to the opinion section, but to the entire newsroom.
For those interested in creating their own board, here are some suggestions and considerations, adapted from the Long Beach Post, McClatchy, the American Press Institute and others:
- Invest effort into recruiting a diverse board. Don’t just put out a call and expect the board to assemble itself, says Joy Mayer, director of Trusting News.
- Make sure board members disclose any potential conflicts of interest and are willing to listen to fellow board members they may disagree with. The board doesn’t need to be unanimous or agree all the time. (It’s also helpful if the newsroom helps the board members get to know each other and build intra-board trust.)
- Be clear about the board’s role and how much editorial influence members will have. Will there be one big board? Smaller boards for specific topics?
- Appoint at least one newsroom member to be a liaison to the board. Distribute an agenda in advance of meetings and make clear the desired goals.
- Demonstrate accountability: Let the board members have a line to the newsroom so they can bring up their concerns when they arise. Tell them when their suggestions have had an impact.
Dig deeper: Audit Your Source Diversity to Better Reflect the Communities You Serve — upcoming session at ONA21 on Tuesday, June 22
Featured experts: Caroline Bauman, Ki Sung, Sandra Clark, Hannah Haynes
Takeaways: This conversation will provide example audits and surveys, along with other resources, to help attendees build a team, get buy-in, test, conduct and report on their own source diversity audits to better understand who they are quoting and in what context.
We’re always on the lookout for helpful resources and tips. If you have other examples to share, please reply directly to this email.