Newsroom Brainstorms on Mission at the 2017 Global Voices Staff Meeting

Newsroom Editors lined up on an opinion spectrum at Mount Lavinia Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 28, 2017. Photo by Sahar Habib Ghazi.

This post is part of a reporting series on newsroom activities at the Global Voices Community Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka in Nov 28 – Dec 1, 2017.

On November 28, 2017, a day before 130 GVers gathered for our internal community meetings in Colombo, Sri Lanka, newsroom editors, Lingua editors, and project leads got together for a day of reflections, brainstorms for our future, and team-building.

In the previous post, we gave an overview of how we built the schedule for the newsroom-specific time together based on feedback from newsroom editors.

In this post, we’ll talk about some of the strategy and mission-related exercises we did during that newsroom-specific time together, as well as during all-staff time.

Strategy and mission were widely requested topics

To recap: in June 2017, we asked our newsroom editors to share what they would like to achieve at an in-person newsroom editors meeting. Lauren and I tried to take inspiration from their answers to build a meeting that focused on three main areas: strategy and mission; support, community and team-building; and stories.

Here were the editors’ hopes for strategy and mission:

  • Discussion on GV values (our contribution to making things better worldwide)
  • Discussion on our target audience (in terms of size and localization)
  • Is there a GV bubble?
  • How (can we) make GV even more in touch with grassroots movements?
  • Ways of getting training?
  • Discussion on our Western/American-centric tone and ways we can be global
  • Is the GV structure working?
  • Is there enough transparency in the organisation?
  • Our funding future?

Who Is a GVer? A “critical thinker,” a “friend,” a “world changer,” and more!

Photo by Jer Clarke. CC-BY-NC.

We started our day all together with a Post-it note exercise in which staff members were asked to answer the question: “Who is a GVer?” Answers were stuck on the wall of the main room where we held our meetings, first as staff and then as a community. Lova, our Francophone editor, and Marianna, our translations project lead, then led a conversation with staff about it.

So who is a GVer? The answers painted a moving picture of our community: “collaborative,” “curious,” “open-minded,” “questioning,” “welcoming”… The list goes on and on! You can find the link to the Google docs with full notes from that session here.

Opinion spectrometer of Global Voices’ mission and identity

We then moved on to four hours of newsroom-related exercises, 25% of which we spent examining the different aspects of our mission and how editors and other staff members who work with the newsroom perceive them.

To do this, we took a stand — literally. A piece of tape was stretched across the room on the floor, meant to represent a spectrum. One end of the tape said “strongly agree,” the other said “strongly disagree,” and there was a lot of room in the middle. In response to a statement read aloud, individual group members positioned themselves along the spectrum according to their opinion.

Here are the statements that our editors took turns reading and facilitating a conversation around:

  • “Global Voices is a news organization.”
  • “GV tells stories, not the news.”
  • “GV is a news site first and a community second.”
  • “GV is an activist organization.”
  • “GVers have a shared mission.”
  • “GV’s mission and identity are clear to the outside world.”

The exercise produced many laughs as participants bumped into each other trying to shift between points on the spectrum. It also led to some “aha!” moments between editors, as they realized that many of them experience similar challenges or have similar ideas about GV’s mission.

GV is many things at once

From the responses and discussions resulting from the opinion spectrometer, we were able to draw a few conclusions:

  • GV is at once a community and a news organization. Together, we tell human-centered stories for a global audience, and what makes us different from other news organizations is the community of people that powers it.
  • GV is also an activist organization in a certain sense, both in view of the stances we have taken with projects like Advox and Rising Voices, and in our commitment to the dignity and rights of human beings.
  • The newsroom team see themselves as mentors and editors — both aspects are central to their role. Personal connection is very important in the editorial process.
  • There needs to be a careful balance between creating a learning space for authors, editing and publishing stories in a timely manner, and ensuring the story has impact.
  • GV as a community has shared values that we stand for, but those values don't always inform our story choices. Sometimes, we report a story simply because lots of people are talking about it online, or because mainstream media are dedicating a lot of coverage to it.
  • GV’s mission, identity and storytelling rigor could be better communicated to the outside world. This opaqueness negatively affects recruitment of potential contributors and the credibility of our stories, as judged by readers and other media organizations.

You can find the full set of notes of the opinion spectrometer discussions with more detailed back-and-forth here.

Towards the end of the day, the entire staff came back together for specific project work and to brainstorm strategies to better nurture our community. Stay tuned for more on this!

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