From Listening to Leading: A Collaborative Media Effort to Address the Information Needs of Local Communities

The media can have a significant role as an enabler for civic engagement through trusted information that represents citizens’ needs, thus it is imperative to continuously strengthen the capacity of media professionals to understand the specific information needs of local communities who typically lack access to trusted information or whose voices are rarely heard.

A media group including representatives of four media outlets and content creators worked collaboratively to identify the pressing issues faced by communities in the northern region. Sawt brought them together using the Listening Post approach, which was developed by Internews to integrate community perspectives into media content and to assist media outlets in better understanding the information needs of communities. The media group included Talal Ghneimat from Jordan News, Dia’ Abanda from Nashama JO, Ahmad Salman from Ramtha Net, and Rouba Elshoushi from No Filter.

Through various audience listening practices, the group learned that a sewage problem in Ramtha, Irbid, and Balqaa had caused an environmental crisis.

“Through the Listening Post approach, we had the opportunity to unveil issues and challenges faced by local communities that would have remained undiscovered without the collaboration of the team.” Says Rouba Elshoushi, founder No Filter, a factchecking initiative. 

The Listening Post approach was introduced to 19 media outlets and content creators as part of the Digital First Program that Sawt is implementing in collaboration with the Media and Digital Runway for Arab Journalists (MADRAJ). This program aims to strengthen the capacity of local media providers to produce content that is relevant to their audiences while leveraging the power of digital platforms.

Ahmad Salman (Left) from conducting field listening in the Ramtha local community to understand the extent of the sewage problem.

Online listening: an example by Jordan News’ Instagram Post in a series of posts to ask about municipal interventions to reduce the implications of the sewage problem.

Using the Listening Post approach, the media group genuinely listened to the communities in Ramtha, Irbid, and Balqaa affected by the sewage problem. Drawing on their network and listening visits, the group used online polls, vox pops, and interviews to gain insights from the community about the problem and gather information and different perspectives.

“Recognizing our geographic spread, we first mapped our community, then divided responsibilities, with Rouba leading the overall effort, Ahmad covering Ramtha, Diaa’ covering Irbid, and I focused on Balqaa. Regular coordination meetings and sharing gathered insights among the group made this a truly unique collaboration!” Says Talal Ghneimat, Journalist and Editor at Jordan News.

Collectively they published more than 15 online posts and conducted six in-depth interviews in addition to the vox pops in one week. The team worked efficiently, integrating text, images, and videos, to create a research-heavy news report, ultimately focusing on the implications of poor sewage services in two highly populated peripheral communities: Wadi Al Sheyah in Ramtha and Al Maghareeb in Balqaa.

After conducting research and listening visits to gather the needed information, the media group developed an in-depth multimedia story that highlighted challenges of sewage services in those areas and its implications on people’s lives.

For the media group, the Listening Post approach was an opportunity to reconnect with their journalistic roots, sharpen their skills, and enhance their editorial practices. The group encountered many challenges during their collaborative content production journey, yet they addressed them with great team spirit and successfully released their news report. The group had planned to publish the news report across each of their platforms. Unexpectedly, Ramtha Net, which had the closest community ties to Wadi Al Sheyah in Ramtha – faced a major challenge with their website, causing a full shutdown. Luckily Nashama JO was able to host the Ramtha Net website until the issue was resolved.

Beyond the compelling multimedia story, Jordan News, Nashama JO, Ramtha Net, and No Filter demonstrated excellent initiative, cooperated skillfully and forged strong bonds, setting a new pathway for collaborative journalism. Collaborative content production sets the stage for more inclusive and community-driven content that addresses community challenges and gives a voice to those who have not been heard. The Listening Post approach helps media outlets better understand the information needs of their audience and connect with them through listening activities. Media outlets that make an effort to listen are better able to produce relevant content to their audience, thereby increasing trust in the media role of promoting audience voices and needs.