Cultivate the Right Space (Physically and Digitally)

A person wearing a gray patterned shirt and glasses points to a presentation on a monitor in front of a group
Solution Journalism Network's Carolyn Robinson presents at a gathering at the Richland Source in Ohio.



The newsroom can be the perfect place to hold an event, especially if you want to convey an openness for the community to get to know you and what you do. However, it may be inaccessible (i.e. lack of transportation) to some groups; you may instead want to signal that you are making the effort to meet the community where they are.

For in-person events, make sure you find an accessible, comfortable venue. This might be in a neighborhood that the community is familiar with, or asking a community organization to loan you space for an event. Make sure it’s not always in the same part of town, so you can be fair to people who live in different neighborhoods. Ensure that there will be enough space, and organize tables and chairs in advance if small group conversations are really important.


Many newsroom partners who hold community events have testified to the importance of providing food. This is not necessarily to provide an incentive, but to help cultivate the welcoming, hospitable tone that’s often so critical to nurturing the tough conversations that solutions journalism seeks to catalyze.

It can also be worthwhile to provide some token of appreciation to people who participate in intensive engagement activities. For example, the Detroit Free Press provided gift cards to everyone who participated in focus groups.


Nurturing an environment of trust takes intentional investments of time. Setting ground rules and community standards are critical to getting participants to assume the behavior you expect from them in the conversation. You can also take practical steps to set the right tone for engagement, such as communicating that participants are models for civil conversation.