“I’m trying to reimagine how journalists can relate to communities and build trust with communities,” said Assistant Professor in Journalism at Klein College of Media and Communication Andrea Wenzel (she/her).
In addition to teaching, Wenzel has dedicated her career to pursuing a line of research on relationship-building between journalists and communities, particularly those that have been historically marginalized. Recently, several of Wenzel’s projects have received recognition and awards for their efforts to improve the field of community-centered journalism.
Wenzel’s book Community-Centered Journalism: Engaging People, Exploring Solutions, and Building Trust was a finalist for The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) 2021 James Tankard Book Award. The book compiles several case studies Wenzel conducted in cities she’s lived in, from California to Kentucky, and addresses the challenge of trusting journalists.
Often, journalists will only go into a town on their worst day to cover a story, which Wenzel said can make it difficult to trust those doing the reporting. Instead, she hopes her research in solutions journalism will strengthen the relationship that residents have with journalists.
Wenzel’s work, however, is not just research and academics. She has been involved with community engagement for some of her studies and, being a former journalist, values that she has been able to connect research and practice through her projects.
“In academia there isn’t a lot of incentivizing of doing practical engaged work,” Wenzel said.
Though she did not need the incentive, Wenzel also received the International Communication Association Journalism Studies Public Engagement Award. This award recognizes efforts such as hers that aim to go beyond academia and engage in the very journalistic practices that Wenzel has pursued.
One way that Wenzel engages with the public through her work is with the Germantown Info Hub, a project she co-founded that started as one of her case studies. The Info Hub asks residents of the Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia what information they want and need covered, and asks residents to share their stories with each other to foster a more accurate media image of the neighborhood.
“Our goal is to circulate information, connect people, write stories that uplift, highlight solutions in the neighborhood, things of that nature,” said Community Reporter at Germantown Info Hub and former student of Wenzel’s Nichole Currie (she/her).
Because of the Germantown Info Hub team’s efforts, they were awarded Billy Penn’s Lenfest Sunshine Award highlighting the most impactful local journalism project. “Getting the award just sort of reassured me that what we’re doing is making an impact,” Currie said.
Through the Info Hub, not only have journalist-resident relationships in Germantown improved, but Wenzel is also interested in using her practices there to make a model that will work to do the same in other neighborhoods across the country.
The Info Hub has collaborated with Kensington Voice, a community newsroom with a similar vision serving a different community in Philadelphia.
“Andrea is my co-conspirator, my inspiration, and my gut-check; the work that I do and that our department does would not be the same without her,” wrote Program Manager for Kensington Voice and Assistant Professor of Instruction in Journalism at Klein Jillian Bauer-Reese (she/her).
Wenzel is appreciative of the opportunities she has had to do her work through Temple. “I think Klein is doing some really innovative work in journalism,” she said.
Bauer-Reese noted that even though Wenzel is one of those professors doing innovative work, she has done it quietly.
“I’m thrilled her work is getting the recognition it deserves,” she wrote. “She’s a star and Klein is lucky to have her!”