Story by Carly Belin
The Agora Journalism Center has named UO School of Journalism and Communication instructors Todd Milbourn and Lisa Heyamoto its 2017-18 Agora Faculty Innovation Fellows. The husband-and-wife team will receive $25,000 for a project exploring what drives and disrupts trust in communities across the nation, and what journalists can learn from those insights.
The key component of Milbourn and Heyamoto’s research will be a series of community engagement workshops across the country. They plan to host small-group sessions at public libraries in diverse communities to better understand how the notion of trust plays out in people’s lives. They have already identified communities to visit in Oregon, California and Illinois, and are lining up visits to other states as well.
“Trust is the lifeblood of democracy, but we’re at this perilous moment where trust in journalism and institutions is at record lows,” Milbourn said. “We want to identify ways to rebuild that, and we believe the best starting point is simply to listen.”
The Agora Journalism Center’s review committee thought Heyamoto and Milbourn’s proposal most closely aligned with the Agora mission and held the most promise for impact because it would potentially leverage community engagement in a way that could be touted in both scholarly and professional publications and incorporated into SOJC classrooms.
Milbourn and Heyamoto, who plan to work with a student researcher, will amplify their findings through a series of articles, published research and new SOJC curriculum offerings. The journalism instructors have already been selected to present their findings at the Online News Association conference in Washington, D.C., in October. The session will feature speakers from across the country who are exploring ways to find connections in a time of divided politics.
The Agora review committee plans to help Milbourn and Heyamoto shape their project for maximum practical impact and research possibilities and to refine the proposal for consideration by outside funders. Milbourn and Heyamoto are already working closely with the Gather community of practice and refined many of their ideas through Agora’s Elevate Engagement conference in May.
“There is much groundbreaking work being done to enhance the many ways journalists can engage in two-way conversations with the communities they serve,” Heyamoto said. “We’re very pleased to contribute to that good work.”
Carly Belin is a sophomore from San Diego, Calif. She is studying journalism with a focus on broadcasting. This is her first term interning for the SOJC Communications Office. She is also a producer for UO’s student-run television program, DuckTV News.