During a time when local news is facing more challenges than ever, it’s crucial for journalists to start producing content that highlights and engages their local communities. To that end, Flux, the University of Oregon (UO) School of Journalism and Communication’s (SOJC) official student-produced magazine, is working with UO and Eugene community members to facilitate important discussions about local issues of race and diversity.

In partnership with the Agora Journalism Center, Flux hosted a community engagement event in January that drew roughly 60 local community members. The event’s attendees spanned all ages and included SOJC students and faculty members, representatives of various multicultural groups and Eugene City Council members.

Caitlyn May, Flux’s editor-in-chief, said the magazine wanted to engage with the community in order to learn from it. “We wanted to see what the community felt the issues of race were and get engaged with them to see what they wanted to read about,” she said.

Moderated by Mike Fancher, former Agora Journalism Center director and executive editor of The Seattle Times, the event began with open-ended questions such as “What is race?”. The attendees split into small discussion groups and then came together to explore the range of answers. May says the discussion provided many new and unexpected perspectives.

“There are all sorts of stories about race and identity out in the community we didn’t even know about,” May said. “We found out that the Black Student Union gave a list of demands to the administration back in 1968 and formed a task force to address them. Recently, in 2015, the Black Student Union gave another list of demands to the faculty, and they are nearly the same.”

Flux is using the information discussed at the event to write stories for upcoming issues of the magazine. “A lot of story ideas that were generated through that event are stories that students are now pursuing at Flux,” said SOJC instructor Todd Milbourn. “It was through that community engagement that some of these things started to bubble up to the surface. Flux has a long, wonderful tradition as a nationally recognized leader in collegiate storytelling. What we’re doing this year is trying to build on that tradition, and make Flux a national leader in journalism innovation as well.”

According to Milbourn, events of this nature are not only important for the advancement of community engagement and local reporting, but also to advocate for minorities on campus. “Its an opportunity to engage in critical conversations about the future of the community and this campus,” he said.

The event was so successful that Flux has plans to host a similar follow-up event on June 3. Though it remains in the planning stages, Flux intends to expand on the conversation that began in January with new and existing participants. It will also screen a video the staff is producing about the “Flux process.”

Effective reporting starts locally, and the SOJC is working to use new, innovative methods to connect with the community, build an audience and bring light to important issues. “In Allen Hall, we all have these grandiose ideas about how we’re going to change the world,” said May. “But it doesn’t always happen in The New York Times newsroom. It happens in small communities with people having conversations and interacting and engaging with the local press.”

Story by Nicole Rideout ’16