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Professor Steve Gunn: "The newsroom should be the servant of the community"

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Tsinghua professors spoke at the 2019 forum sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

To succeed in the modern media world, news outlets must work closely with their local communities to build trust and loyalty, Tsinghua Visiting Professor Steve Gunn told an international journalism conference on November 9.

Speaking at the 2016 CASS Forum in Beijing, Professor Gunn said newspapers and other media organizations can serve a constructive role in their communities by seeking public input on possible stories and editorial decisions.

"The newsroom should be the servant of the community," the veteran American journalist told an audience of about 100 journalism researchers from China, Japan, Africa, Europe and the United States. "Engaged citizens are really the key to the future of journalism."

Steve Gunn: "Engaged citizens are really the key to the future of journalism."

Professor Gunn, former editor-in-chief of two U.S. newspapers, appointed three local citizens to join the editorial board when he was editor of the Annapolis Capital, giving community members a voice in editorial decisions and meetings with local leaders. As editor of the Virginia Pilot in Norfolk, he used an interactive platform that empowered readers to suggest ideas for stories. One reader proposal that became a news story answered the question, "Just how dangerous are balloons to the environment?"

Professor Gunn, a professor in the Global Business Journalism  program, also led a community effort in Norfolk to measure the local impact of rising sea levels caused by global climate change on the oceanside city.

News organizations can instantly receive feedback on their reader engagement efforts because of online metrics, he noted. While the media industry is facing serious challenges, an engaged citizenship allows "a reinvention of the good old days of journalism," the professor said.

Two other Tsinghua faculty members also spoke at the conference on "constructive journalism." Professor Shi Anbin described the origin, evolution and global impact of constructive journalism. Professor Rick Dunham  offered a case study in constructive journalism – global media coverage of climate change.

The conference was organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Journalism and Communication. It was held at the Lake Side Hotel in southeastern Beijing.

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