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How to introduce a citizens agenda to your newsroom

Here's a step-by-step guide to developing a citizens agenda and covering the issues that matter most to your audiences.

This summer, the Membership Puzzle Project and the engagement platform Hearken launched a call for newsrooms to reimagine their campaign coverage and put community members’ needs at the center of their work.

The “citizens agenda” approach was developed by press critic Jay Rosen with the belief that allowing community members’ needs to drive the design of election coverage would allow for an improved democratic process and more social cohesion. The citizens agenda requires going to audiences before you start your coverage to ask what they want covered. Rosen also directs Membership Puzzle Project and leads New York University’s Studio 20 program.

In this post from Hearken engagement strategist Bridget Thoreson, you’ll find highlights from the SRCCON session she facilitated with Membership Puzzle Project’s Ariel Zirulnick. It’s a helpful step-by-step guide to developing a citizens agenda in your newsroom.

The five key steps outlined in the post are:

  1. Identify who you are trying to inform.
  2. Ask: “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for your vote?”
  3. Create a draft agenda and ask for feedback.
  4. Use the draft as a playbook for your coverage.
  5. Press the candidates to address these issues.