Journalists Deepen Knowledge on Engaged Citizens Reporting journalists were among 50 journalists from eight media outlets that joined an online ‘learning circle’ on April 22-23 to gain more knowledge about engagement journalism and innovative methods to involve women, young people and under-represented communities in the creation of high-quality content.

The learning circle, entitled ‘Building Foundations for Engaging Citizens in Reporting’, was organized as part of the Western Balkans Media for Change project for media outlets from Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

The Western Balkans Media for Change project is funded by the UK Government and implemented by the British Council in partnership with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Thomson Foundation and The International NGO Training and Research Centre, INTRAC. It supports the work of media outlets and individual journalists from the Western Balkan countries. Innovative Media is one of the organisations from North Macedonia that through is part of this project. journalists strengthened their understanding of community dynamics, engagement journalism principles and the development of investigative stories based on community involvement.

On the first day, journalists received an introduction to engagement journalism from Corrective, an award-winning, public interest-oriented media company from Germany that aims to strengthen democracy.

Corrective is involved in investigative journalism and seeks to trigger public debate, work with members of the public on their research and promote educational programmes.

In the first session, the journalists explored the emergence of independent local newsrooms that redefine the landscape of journalism production and funding.

They also learned how to actively engage people in their reporting processes, amplify marginalised voices and empower local communities to shape their democratic environments. Community journalism as a topic was then discussed, showcasing best practices from industry pioneers and strategies for building sustainable business models with community at the core.

The second session focused on presenting a compelling case study titled ‘Suddenly, your body is not yours’ which highlighted barriers to obtaining an abortion in Germany through a crowd-sourced survey.

In the investigation by Correctiv, 1,505 women shared their experiences, shedding light on the systemic failures within the German medical system concerning abortion care.

The second day focused on the development of editorial startegies and best practices to engage communities. In the first session of the second day, the journalists explored editorial strategies for creating engaging content and learned best practices from BIRN.

This part of the learning circle was led by Katarina Zrinjski from BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, Besar Likmeta, editor-in-chief at BIRN Albania, and Ana Petruseva, country director of BIRN Macedonia.

The day continued with practical work and ended with a session on using the Engaged Citizens Reporting tool, which BIRN developed through the Media for All project.

The tool enables users to crowdsource data and facilitate engagement with communities. Karla Junicic, BIRN’s ECR Coordinator, presented the tool and its potential for engaging audiences in content creation.

The learning circle formed part of the editorial and mentoring support provided to journalists and media outlets as part of the project. The project provides financial support to media outlets and individual journalists to help them improve operational capacity, business sustainability and innovation potential, while aiming to better equip media professionals to produce more quality diverse, fact-checked and gender-sensitive content that will reach and engage with wider audiences.