The thrill of being lied to, the power of the audience, and more great advice from our new video lecture series

By Marie Gilot and Carrie Brown, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Today’s journalists must learn how to engage with audiences in new, authentic, and mutually rewarding ways. Lucky for us, talented trailblazers have successfully reinvented the art of journalistic engagement in the digital age. 

Some of them teach at our school, the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY in New York City. Others at media organizations and startups around the country have much to teach us by virtue of the enterprising work they’re doing in the field.

No matter if you’re a Newmark J-School student or alum, a professional journalist, or a member of the public interested in engaging an audience, we believe you should have access to lessons taught by these trailblazing storytellers. 

That’s why we’re launching a free video lecture series with some of the best journalistic practitioners we know: David Fahrenthold, 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post and NBC/MSNBC political analyst; Jennifer Brandel, founder of the engagement-focused media startup Hearken; and coming soon, NY1 anchor Errol Louis, one of the preeminent local TV journalists in the country and a Newmark J-School professor of urban reporting.

Each one- to two-hour class is an intimate conversation between the journalist and the viewer, broken down into bite-size chapters that offer a mix of practical reporting techniques, case studies, career advice, and inspiration. 

The series has a special focus on what we at the Newmark J-School call “social journalism.” It’s the basis for a unique master’s degree we offer that emphasizes listening, community building, and producing tangible impact for the public. 

In his lively class, “Investigative Journalism in the Open,” Fahrentold draws on real-life examples that range from his reporting on the "National Muskrat Skinning Championship" to crowdsourcing his investigation of the Trump Foundation on Twitter. He also provides an in-depth look at his Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Donald Trump’s business interests and 2016 presidential campaign.

From Fahrentold’s more than 20 years of professional experience, he tells the viewers of his video course, "There is nothing in journalism as exhilarating as being lied to. That is the sound of -- after 50 feet of digging -- your shovel hitting the top of the treasure chest." He also reminds them to “Remember the power of your audience...Even if you spent your life covering a beat, your audience knows more about that beat than you do.”

Brandel, whose class is called “People-Powered Journalism,” talks about engaging audiences as an intrapreneur at Chicago’s WBEZ and later as a startup founder. She has covered stories ranging from finding early 20th century gangster Al Capone’s secret tunnels in Chicago to helping Floridians survive Hurricane Michael. 

In the video, she shares the vision that led her to launch her own media company, Hearken. “Journalism goes into communities and says, we know what's best for you...What if journalists were able to go into a community and say...So what do you not know that I could find out for you?"

The video series, shot in the Newmark J-School’s broadcast studio at its West 40th Street location, is partially funded by a grant from the News Integrity Initiative, a project that fosters informed and engaged communities, combats media manipulation, and supports inclusive and constructive civil discourse. The Newmark J-School at CUNY is the only publicly-funded graduate school of journalism in the Northeast, born in the digital age and committed to diversity in journalism.

Marie Gilot is the director of J+, the professional education program at the Newmark J-School.

Carrie Brown, Ph.D, heads the Newmark J-School’s M.A. in Social Journalism program.