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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Amplifying Marginalized Voices in Public Deliberation: Inclusive Community Conversations About Inequities in Partnership with Journalists and J-Schools

This project establishes training programs for journalists and journalism students in deliberation facilitation, helping communities bridge differences and spark solutions to problems that disproportionately affect low-income, disabled, elderly and Black and Brown populations.

Research questions include: What roles can newsrooms and J-Schools play in bridging polarization around topics like race and class such as K-12 achievement disparities? What are the challenges/strategies in conversation facilitation that seeks to amplify marginalized voices for inclusion in equity deliberations?

This project starts with the national non-profit Cortico and its Local Voices Network (LVN) training a news outlet’s journalists with a partnered reporting skills class at a local university in five cities across the United States. Cortico will train journalists and journalism students in how to reach out to marginalized groups and then facilitate public dialogues about inequities. The journalists then work with the students to host conversations, analyze them and use them in news stories. Afterwards, the research team will collect data — surveys with participants/students, interviews with community partners (newsrooms/ and J-School instructors) and textual analyses of the resulting media products — to determine whether coverage of inequities’ solutions is improved because of the discursive intervention.

Expected outcomes include a model for other newsroom-J-School partnerships, packaging the LVN training into modules and replicating this work in a more sustainable way. Other outcomes include how-to reports on conversation facilitation for journalists and J-School curriculum as well as academic journal articles and a book.


Susan Robinson, professor of journalism and mass communications



Local Voices Network