Dialogue-based Journalism (20 ECTS)

Course description

4th semester at The Danish School of Media and Journalism, DMJX, in Aarhus

Credits: 20 ECTS
Class: 10 weeks

Learning outcomes:

The course will qualify students to work constructively with journalism by involving citizens in the entire journalistic process, keep an eye on context, complexity and nuances, and seek a solution-oriented perspective when relevant.

Students will gain knowledge of:

  • The constructive journalistic thinking, and how it differs from and overlaps with other journalistic currents of the time
  • Dialogue-based journalism, the philosophy behind, and the perspectives of the particular journalistic role that it requires
  • News avoidance, polarisation, news deserts and mistrust of the media – and what we can try to do as journalists to counteract these trends in society.

Students will acquire skills in:

  • Moderating and facilitating dialogue that seeks to promote understanding, curiosity and engagement rather than reinforcing conflict and polarisation
  • Produce / organise content to a clearly defined target group and reach this target group in the most suitable places
  • Identify a “community” and its problems across geography, interests or life circumstances with an eye to how dialogue-based journalism can play a role in the community

Students will acquire competencies within:

  • Developing ideas, interviewing, researching and angling constructively in a broad sense
  • Involving citizens in the editorial processes and the development of significant, nuanced stories for a relevant, major audience

Timeline semester program

Week 1 Teaching the mindset
Duration: 1 week
  • Dilemmas
  • What is DBJ
  • The movement of constructive journalism
  • Solution journalism
  • Target audience/niche groups
Week 2 Teaching the methods
Duration: 1 week
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Questionnaires
  • Listening and moderating on SoMe
  • Learn dialogue from mediatiors and fieldwork from antropologists
  • Co-creation
Week 3-6 Major assignments
Duration: 4 weeks
  • Make a series of productions about a societal important topic.
    Ask the public for knowledge, ideas, experiences, opinions and so on and disclose problems and responses to the topic including their contributions.
    Be transparent about your process, publish continually and moderate comment sections.
Week 7 Teaching the mindset/methods
Duration: 1 week
  • Polarisation
  • New debate formats
  • Interview: How to ask questions for dialogue

Week 8-9 Major assignments
Duration: 2 weeks
  • Facilitate a constructive debate between two persons with opposing views without turning it into a question of winners and losers
  • Facilitate a conversation between a group of people and make them listen to one another to seek understanding
  • Write an essay about the theme: Journalistic roles

Overview

In this course the students have two major assignments. In both assignments the starting point is the third pillar about democratic conversation in the Constructive House.

DMJX visualization course

Assignment 1: A dialogue project consisting of productions with public involvement as centrepiece, lasting 7 weeks.
Assignment 2: A debate/conversation assignment, lasting 3 weeks.

Dialogue project

In the dialogue project the students dive into a major societal problem. They choose one aspect and at first identify problems and then suggest possible solutions to the problem. In this process the students involve representatives from the public in every possible way by asking for knowledge, ideas, experiences, opinions, feedback and so on. The purpose of involving the public is to spot overlooked discourses, qualify productions and perform journalism that is relevant to the needs of people.

To give the students some structure, we divided the dialogue project into three distinct phases:

  1. Theory
  2. Production
  3. Evaluation

Topics, didactical methods and learning goals

The first two weeks of the dialogue project is focused on theory. We present and discuss the current problems media and society are facing with trust, polarisation and news avoidance. We introduce the students to the concept of engagement journalism and the methods of involving the public in the entire journalistic process.

We also introduce the concept of constructive journalism and how engagement journalism is connected to constructive journalism.

 

students showing signs

Students go out to meet and ask citizens on societal issues. (Photo DMJX/Johanne Haagerup)

After the theoretical part, the students work with their dialogue project for four weeks.

During the work process the students must:

  • Find and zoom in on one or more specific places where the problem and/or the solution is distinct, work in the field and listen to people who are affected by the problem and have knowledge of and opinions about it
  • Involve citizens via crowdsourcing-techniques such as questionnaires, open editorial meetings and meet ups on relevant channels
  • Publish continually
  • Moderate comment sections

The students set up a website and publish content within these headlines:

  • Here is what we know
  • Here is our website and what we are going to explore
  • Here is what we learned from you
  • Here are the voices we usually don’t hear
  • Here is what other people do

The students work in editorial groups of five and take turns as editor, moderator and reporters.

The groups meet with their supervisor once a week to discuss the next step and learn from their process.

Each student must produce a minimum of four productions (10.000-15.000 characters) in a media type and format suitable for the target group. 

In the seventh and final week of the dialogue project, the students get the last feedback from their audiences and write a reflection report about their learning outcome regarding involvement:

  • If and how involving the public had an effect on their productions
  • If and how they had focus on nuances and solutions – asking: what now?
  • If and how they are conscious of the methods and where to use them purposefully in the journalistic process
  • If and how they were transparent in their working process towards the communities they have consulted and their target group for the website
  • If and how they can reflect on advantages and pitfalls in working with engagement and constructive journalism
  • If and how they were creative and exploratory in their working process

The students are also required to find two people, concerned with their project problem, who disagree on something and are willing to participate in a constructive debate in the next assignment about debate.

Debate and conversation part

In this 3 week-part of the dialogue course the students are taught the mechanisms at play in polarisation. They are presented with new constructive debate formats, which seek to make participants listen better with the purpose of exchanging points of views in a fruitful way.

The first week the students are presented with theory about polarisation. They meet journalists who have developed and tested new debate formats and learn the ideas behind and also how to structure and facilitate constructive debates.

The second and third week are dedicated to production and feedback.

The students work in groups of three and each group is responsible for arranging and facilitating either:

  1. A constructive debate between two people with opposing views
  2. A conversation with at least six to ten people.

The purpose of both assignments is to practice how to structure a meaningful debate or conversation and to listen and ask curious questions that seek understanding.

Each group writes a report reflecting on what went well and what went wrong in the debate and the conversation and how to improve both.
Finally each student writes an individual essay focused on a specific aspect of the journalistic role.