BIRN Supports 28 Media Outlets in Engagement Journalism

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Journalists and editors from 28 media outlets in six Balkan countries are being given financial and editorial support to engage their local communities in the reporting process.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, launched a new round of support for media outlets across the Balkans in October 2022, continuing the regional Media for All project.

BIRN will provide editorial and mentoring support to journalists and editors from total of 28 media outlets from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The group of 28 media outlets was previously supported in 2020 and 2021 within the same project through training, grants, technical support and mentorship to enable engagement with local communities and enable citizens to participate in the reporting process, by suggesting topics, providing testimonials, documents and evidence.

BIRN’s support will now equip local media to further develop their skills in engagement journalism and raise their editorial standards, with a particular focus on storytelling, data analysis, verification and fact-checking, contributing to the fight against misinformation and disinformation.

The media receiving the support will continue to use the Engaged Citizens Reporting tool, ECR, which was developed by BIRN during the previous phase of the Media for All project.

Media outlets will receive support until the end of February 2023. They will also be able to carry on using the ECR tool after the project is complete, to ensure sustainability of engagement journalism methodology in the region and enable media to better answer the information needs of local communities on a long-term basis.

The project aims to achieve a level of relationships and standards in which media outlets and journalists report together with citizens, and not only about them.

The project intends to build on the results from the previous phase but also to help prevent the spread of and the susceptibility to misinformation and disinformation. It will continue to work towards the creation of high-quality, accurate and relevant content created with the community by using the ECR tool and with support from BIRN’s editors and journalists.

Community-engaged reporting, in which ordinary people’s voices are heard and unresolved issues are tackled, proved to be a game-changer, as shown by numerous examples from the previous project phase.

Citizens’ engagement in the reporting process has put additional pressure on local authorities and decision-makers to act on issues of concern. It has helped media outlets to listen to voices from the community while bringing innovation to their investigative reporting and newsrooms.

Journalists and editors who have already used the ECR tool say that it has transformed the way the media outlets communicate with their audiences, who feel empowered by helping shape the content of their own media.

“It has direct impact on mobilising communities to solve a problem, because we provide data … that they can rely on, and continue to seek their rights,” Dorjana Daka, editor of Albanian news website Informim, told BIRN in August 2022.

Informim investigated stories about the Roma community, whose members often do not have access to the internet and lack trust in journalists, but managed to engage them through ECR and community events.

BIRN’s manager for the Media for All project, Marija Vasilevska, said that BIRN continues to support the media outlets in the creation of quality content “required by citizens and for citizens”.

“This way we are bringing back trust in the media, but also increasing the audience of local media outlets. Moreover, we are giving voice to the voiceless, such as minorities and vulnerable groups of citizens to share information that can be placed on media outlets’ front pages, lobbying and advocating for real needs in society,” Vasilevska said.

This extension of the projects is built on successes from the previous phase. During the first phase of the project, 51 media outlets were supported, directly engaging more than 39,000 citizens in six countries through more than 300 different callouts for engagement, which resulted in more than 700 journalistic products in various formats, including articles, video, podcasts and multimedia content.

The Media for All project is being implemented in six countries in the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The project is funded by the UK Government and implemented by a consortium led by the British Council together with BIRN, the Thomson Foundation and Intrac.