Heather Chin: Solutions and service to empower local communities

The Constellation News Leadership Initiative is a career development fellowship to support mid-career media professionals of color. As the inaugural Constellation class completed its fellowship this spring, we asked each fellow to write an essay reflecting on their experience by answering the following questions: Based on what you have learned and seen in journalism, how do you think the field will evolve in the future? What role do you want to play in that transformation?

The journalism industry has been in a state of flux for the entirety of my post-graduate and professional life, so when employers ask where I see myself in X number of years, I admit I don’t know what to predict — after all, much of what I’m doing now in digital-mobile-audience production and engagement didn’t exist in the same way 10 years ago. But there have been thematic throughlines, and this fellowship has helped sharpen how attuned I am to the moving parts as they evolve into potential trends in the journalism industry. 

The throughlines that most intrigue me are the moves toward amplifying individual journalists’ brands; news outlets focusing on single-beat reporting that partners with local outlets, as seen with Chalkbeat and the Marshall Project; the intersection of journalism and technology; and entrepreneurship around solutions and service journalism as they relate to empowering local communities.

The role I want to play in this transformation is as both team member and leader to strengthen the communication between audiences and journalists, whether in newsroom reporting out in the field, or the classroom. Too often, colleagues seem to talk around or at each other, not with one another, and my strengths lie in ideating ways in which people can connect instead of getting lost in the weeds. This can come through new processes and tools, or community-building efforts. 

My background is in local reporting and editing, while my current role centers digital storytelling and audience engagement. A key component to both is building reader trust and buy-in in new and familiar ways. 

I will utilize lessons learned about design-thinking, audience and data segmentation, business models, and power no matter if my work takes the form of project management, coaching, launching my own service news product or something entirely unpredicted. Whatever comes next, I am confident that the Constellation cohort and our shared training have prepared me well for any pivot and innovation that is needed.

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