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How WFAE embraced community engagement and found success

By centering community engagement, WFAE has identified opportunities for more ambitious journalism.

As Mollie Muchna writes in a blog post for Trusting News, “The challenge with engagement is no longer convincing journalists of its importance, but rather figuring out what it should look like in each community and how journalists can feasibly fit this work into their busy schedules.”

One newsroom that has found success in engaged journalism is WFAE in Charlotte, N.C. Led by chief content officer and executive vice president Ju-Don Marshall, the station took on two challenges at once: a transition to digital platforms and a focus on community listening.

Through this community engagement, the newsroom, Marshall says, has been able to do ambitious projects they might not have considered otherwise. Their efforts have included a community advisory board, reporters stationing themselves in library branches, and the regular use of listening tools like Hearken.

Marshall says this investment in community engagement has brought them success:

  • Since 2017, the station’s digital footprint has grown significantly, which Marshall credits to the engagement work.
  • Marshall says it’s common for people calling in to donate to the station after WFAE programs featuring community members. Marshall says this demonstrates engagement’s effectiveness in reaching new audiences and building loyalty, the kind of loyalty needed to develop sustainable membership.