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Local news is a two-way street

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 by Joel Gross

I often describe the Austin Monitor as a news source that exists at the intersection of local government and community. One of the many reasons we believe this space is so important is because of the tremendous influence each side has on the other. The community shapes local government and local government shapes the community. This special dynamic can perhaps better be described as a relationship.    

OK, a relationship between our local government and the community might not be a groundbreaking revelation, but the real-world effects start to show up when we go deeper into the nature and health of this relationship. Are both sides active participants and working in good faith? This can show up in highly visible ways like voter turnout and community feedback opportunities. However, it often comes down to the more human areas that we strive for in our own personal relationships like shared trust and understanding. 

The Monitor uses news and resources to strengthen the trust and understanding between local government and the community. Our editorial approach, process and code of ethics are in place to ensure that our readers – both members of the community and local government – trust the information we publish and understand the issues and decisions we cover.   

While you’ve seen our dedicated reporting on local government entities such as Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court, we are also working to expand our relationship and connection with community members and groups across the city.

Recently we were honored to partner with the fantastic team at Decibel and join a listening session with residents of Del Valle. Over an hour and a half session, we discussed the relationship with the news media and the local government. We heard personal stories and challenges that increased our understanding of the community and gave us direction for doing a better job serving our readers and their neighbors. And once again, we were reminded of the reciprocal nature of our work – informing the community about the local government, and also informing the local government about the community.   

We know that our decisions shape the community, and our expectations for the future are sky-high. We see this deep community attachment as a good sign, but we also recognize that these expectations have raised the stakes and reduced the margin for error. At best, an outdated one-way flow of local news and information doesn’t meet our needs, and at worst, it breaks down the relationships across the community.   

Cultivating relationships and engaging the community through events like the Del Valle listening session is essential to strengthening the information landscape of the community, and we look forward to doing more of these types of events. The most effective local news is a trusted two-way street that helps create greater understanding, connection and progress for the whole community.

There’s no time like the present. Help us expand this two-way street by signing up for a small group discussion session in July. We’ll be talking about the state of local news and how we can further strengthen the Austin Monitor. We have two options (virtual and in-person). Sign up here.     

Joel Gross is the CEO of the Austin Monitor

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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