Karla Ovalle: Prioritizing community, not clicks

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?

This transition is already underway, but journalism on digital mediums in particular has shifted from prioritizing ‘clicks’ to better prioritizing community. Journalism will continue evolving from one of gatekeeping and misrepresentation to one of pluralism and equitable coverage. 

This is the only way local journalism can survive, and I see it as a symbiotic relationship. Our communities need to nurture news literacy but they can’t do it alone. Legacy news organizations have a long history of failing communities of color. I believe local news is a right, and I envision a future where access to equitable coverage of your community is as central to your home as electricity. I’d like to see fewer hedge-fund acquired news outlets and more nonprofit structures modeled after The Lenfest Institute’s ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The role I want to play in that evolution is to help develop better methods through which we can use audience data, readership patterns, and people’s lived experiences to foster media literacy and understanding in underserved communities. I want to be creative about how we disseminate well-researched and truth-based information. I want to lead a team that not only develops data literacy in the newsroom, but helps the newsroom reach and engage audiences.

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