Case Study 4: Design as Civic Journalism

Some of the most interesting work happening at the intersection of design and journalism attempts to overlay design processes directly onto the reporting process. This represents another way design is being used to foster a human-centric model, with the reader placed at the center. Of course, basing coverage and reporting on a determination of people’s “needs,” and including their feedback as an important part of the reporting process, raises questions. It touches on issues about control and authorship—about the end of gatekeeper journalism and the rise of the audience as collaborator. Critics suggest this is dangerous, because readers may not necessarily know what they want or need. Trying to focus on that, rather than simply what is happening in the news, leads to pandering they say. These critics also often wonder how this model helps with international news, or indeed anything other than the most basic local reporting. Proponents of civic journalism, on the other hand, say editors in editorial meetings are out of touch with their communities, and that not including the audience to generate coverage is arrogant and elitist.

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