Journalism and Democracy beyond the Election

What comes next?

After what seems like a never-ending election season, many folks are ready to think about anything else. On the other hand, millions of people are activated and ready to be more civically engaged. Traditional journalistic work mostly proceeds as though there’s nothing to do until the next time the polls open, but is that all there is? Meanwhile, activist organizations and social media users often don’t worry so much about facts and fairness. For this Knight Lab Studio project, we’ll conduct a broad design research study, looking for “civic media” opportunities which adapt and evolve journalism’s traditional role in supporting democratic society in light of how information systems really work today.

Faculty and Staff Leads

Joe Germuska

Chief Nerd

Joe runs Knight Lab’s technology, professional staff and student fellows. Before joining us, Joe was on the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. Also, he hosts a weekly radio show on WNUR-FM – Conference of the Birds.

Project Details

2021 Winter

Important Questions
  • Besides voting, what are effective ways for people to advocate for their needs and desires in society? What information do people need to make that work?
  • How has social media worked, for good or ill, in promoting civic engagement?
  • Where is the line between “accountability” journalism and “activist” journalism? Why does it matter?
  • Is the best role for civic media to make active people more capable? Or to provide a mechanism for people to participate in civics without having to commit so much time and energy? Is it even an “either-or” question?
Sample Milestones
  • Weeks 1-4: Reading & research; interviews with activists, journalists, and researchers; Design concept generation exercises
  • Weeks 5-8: Concept testing, iteration
  • Weeks 8-9: Distillation, creation of final research report

Based on sound research we do at the beginning of the quarter, we’ll generate a number of concepts for services, systems, and/or “publications” that equip the public to understand and take action on important issues. We’ll develop and present design materials describing our research and how it leads to the possibilities we’ve uncovered, both at a scale which might begin right away as well as some which are more imaginative, or even provocative.

Apply to Project