Community Reporting: A Space for Community to Voice Aspirations and Opportunity to Triangulate Public Opinion Facts

Community reporting is the delivery of information about a community, their activities, events, themes or topics, reported by the community. 

YAKKUM Emergency Unit’s (YEU) Community-led Innovation Partnership (CLIP) facilitated a community reporting workshop for innovators from their IDEAKSI project. The two-day workshop focused on the objectives of community reporting, supporting the community members to voice their aspirations and to conduct advocacy through messages or news from their respective communities. The Innovator teams were provided with a mentor to help them curate the specific messages from each community. The workshops also taught the community members the importance of documentation of evidence in lessons learned reporting, an essential aspect of participatory and inclusive disaster management. 

It should be noted that it takes time and skill to develop strong news and reporting skills, and continuous practice is needed to develop the communication skills of the community members. Challenges that arose during the discussion were as follows:

  1. It was reported that Deaf people find it difficult to communicate verbally and in writing. More tips or strategies are needed to find alternative inclusive methods so all community members can contribute to community reporting. 

  2. Widespread access to the internet, allows people to disseminate information without having to fact-check. This can encourage the creation of erroneous public opinion, which then weakens the trust in community reporting if images are not carefully curated.

  3. Legal protection for community reporters is still minimal, so not many community members are willing to become community reporters. This also impacts respondents who are story sources too. It is important to incorporate the principle of 'do no harm', when sharing community stories and consider if disclosing the identity is aligned with this principle. 

  4. Accessibility and education levels need to be considered when creating community reports, as often reports produced are not of a high standard. Further training requirements may be needed for certain communities or groups. 

In addition, Ms Arni Surwanti from the CIQAL Foundation said that one of the challenges in developing community reporting is related to the sensitivity of the community reporters to sort out which stories deserve to be made public messages and hold important values, or not.

Sensitivity to the content of community reports needs to be trained and assisted by those who have a better understanding. Thus, the first step to start community reporting is to select several community members who are interested in becoming community reporters. A large number of community reporters is not necessary, what is more important is the effectiveness of the reporters. Some of the main prerequisites for a community reporter team member are 1) having an interest; 2) having basic skills, and 3) having stability.

Communities do not need the skill of professional journalists, with these three prerequisites strengths can be identified such as who should conduct interviews, take photos, record audio or write captivating stories. All of which can be presented as simple news, public messages or short articles.  

The next stage of the process was mentoring community reporters. Together they learnt what messages are newsworthy and what topics should be reported to the wider community. Sharpness and sensitivity regarding the value of stories and news will need to be developed over time with support from routine discussion and mentoring throughout the communities. 

A key strength observed was that most innovator teams at the workshop already had forms of publications via media. These media spaces can be utilized in disseminating information and advocacy messages. The key focus now is, “how to build an impactful story?”

The following are some principles for developing a reportage that can make a difference:

  1. Every story is important.
  2. Share stories with people who understand/learn about social issues.
  3. Do not measure the impact of stories from national news broadcasts.
  4. Storytelling forms a mindset and can change perspectives.
  5. Does the content hold value and the potential to positively impact those in the wider community? 

“Our society today prefers entertaining published content. How can we get our society to pay attention to stories that are more real and not just entertainment?” Agus from SLB Bhakti Pertiwi-Sekoci Sasana Inspira asked.

On the second day of the training, each group of innovators started the practice of community reporting by mapping out the positive (success), negative (obstacles/challenges), and potentially related to their main issue, if developed into a reportage. They discussed the impact direct quotes can have on a story and how to incorporate it into a news story, short article, or caption on a photo. The choice of sentences for the title and headline can also be key in captivating an audience. 

Then, based on the mapping, the participants explored ideas that emerged quickly through the rapid 8 practice. The participants had 8 minutes to come up with 8 ideas. They then narrowed these ideas down to three main topics, with the main theme of inclusive disaster management and the impact of the innovations that have been developed.

After the two-day training, each team of innovators developed a storyboard, which may be used as a reference in their community reporting activities.