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We plan to launch our Open Newsroom activities in February to better listen to our communities, build relationships, share story ideas and solve community problems. 

BY DIVINE DUBE, Editorial Director @The_CBNewsThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | JAN. 14, 2021

At The Citizen Bulletin we believe in giving our audiences — communities that we serve — a platform to actively participate in our reporting processes. 

Put differently, we operate as a journalistic community that informs and convenes communities who need, and have information that becomes more powerful when it’s all put together.

 Thus why we are so much intrigued that we're in the process of launching our first Open Newsroom, as part of our long-term community listening initiative, a project supported by the Membership Puzzle Project through the Media Development Investment Fund.

We hope to use the Open Newsroom platform to better listen to our audiences; build mutually beneficial relationships, bring new perspectives to our storytelling and ultimately meet genuine needs of our communities. 

Admittedly, we're not pioneers of this initiative. As such, we hope to learn and draw inspiration from other newsrooms around the world  such as The City, based in New York, which already has experience with engaged journalism initiatives. 

However, we’re incredibly happy that we’re the first in Zimbabwe to launch such an initiative which we believe will help us better meet our communities’ information needs and also propel us towards sustainability. 

Though this is an experiment; a learning opportunity for us, we hope that along the way, we’ll be joined by more like-minded local news organizations who wish to reconstruct their reporting processes through listening with the goal of producing journalism with, and not for their audiences. 

Our Open Newsroom is centered on live journalism — also called engaged journalism — and will take many forms that include community interface meetings, pop-up interviews, telephone calls, WhatsApp chats and other  virtual interactions. 

However, due to restrictions imposed by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus, our plan is to experiment with virtual remote interactions until community meetings are allowed again.  

We’re aware of some of the challenges presented by virtual remote meetings including but not limited to lack of access to internet data for a majority of our low income communities. In light of this, we hope our ongoing listening process will help us figure out how best we can be inclusive, allowing even the poorest and most vulnerable members of our communities to be part of our Open Newsroom activities. 

One alternative to deal with the difficult situation in the interim period is to build mutually beneficial partnerships with existing community organizations who are already running vibrant closed (WhatsApp) groups to convene communities. We are currently engaging them to learn how they have been dealing with the challenge. 

Over the next coming weeks we will reach out to more people within the local news ecosystem consulting them about how we can best convene communities through our Open Newsroom. Their input will inform a plan of action that we will roll out and the direction our community listening initiative will take in the coming months. 

Our Engagement Team is waiting to hear from you. Consider sending them a chat on our WhatsApp number +263 7 18636460 and tell them what you think about our Open Newsroom, and how you’d love to be involved.