Exploring how communities can benefit from restorative storytelling

Last week, MediaShift published “How Restorative Narratives Can Engage Communities After Tragedies,” which highlights the changing landscape of crisis journalism and ivoh’s work around Restorative Narrative. The piece, written by Ben DeJarnette, is part of the “Redefining Engagement” series produced by the Agora Journalism Center.

The article highlights a Restorative Narrative workshop that ivoh’s executive director Mallary Tenore led at The Experience Engagement un-conference in Portland, Oregon, which was held in partnership with Journalism That Matters and the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). The workshop began just after news broke of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

News and details of the shooting prompted Tenore to talk with attendees about how media practitioners cover tragedies — and how they can improve.  “With the public’s trust in media reaching record lows and traditional business models failing, it no longer seems like heresy to question whether we might need to revisit our core assumptions about journalistic practice,” DeJarnette writes. “Is the main purpose of journalism to filter daily events through a prism of conflict and tragedy? If not, what does the field’s future look like? Is it ‘objective’? Activist? Is it heavily mediated, with the journalist as a gatekeeper? Or is it instead participatory, with the journalist as a convener of community conversation?”

DeJarnette explains how reporters could change the way they operate in the immediate aftermath of tragedy by considering what happens next to a community. “In most cases, the coverage ends — and the people whose suffering filled our airwaves and our news pages are left behind, forgotten by the journalists who showed up on the worst day of their lives and asked for an interview.”

Tenore leads a workshop on Restorative Narrative. Photo by Emmalee McDonald.

Tenore contributed to the conversation during her workshop by emphasizing the importance of revisiting a community that experiences trauma after the initial media frenzy. Tenore “thinks communities benefit when journalism is less sensational and more empathetic,” DeJarnette said. “On the morning of the Roseburg shootings, Tenore explained to workshop participants that news consumers need (and want) reprieves from the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of war, conflict, corruption and crime.”

Tenore shared how Restorative Narratives can serve communities that have experienced trauma by sharing stories that focus on resilience, strength and healing. Media often focuses on covering trauma briefly in the immediate aftermath of crisis. “We’re saying the story doesn’t end there,” Tenore said. “In many ways, it’s just beginning.” Restorative Narratives don’t avoid tragedy; instead, they move the storyline forward by illuminating signs of resilience that emerge in a tragedy’s wake.

DeJarnette’s article sheds light on the necessary changes that need to occur in order for Restorative Narratives and other forms of engaged reporting to thrive in a breaking news environment: “Journalism will need to embrace routines that slow down the news cycle and give reporters an opportunity to look beyond the next morning’s headline.”

Read DeJarnette’s complete story here.

If you’d like to learn more about Restorative Narratives, watch Tenore’s presentation on Restorative Narratives from the Trauma Journalism: Training for Educators conference at the  Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Scroll to Top