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Megan Griffith-Greene is the service features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

458. How service journalism helps solve community problems

At the root, most journalism is some kind of service journalism. But only by listening to the audience can journalists really provide the service they believe they offer. 

“We’ve had this ‘teacher at the front of the class’ mentality,” says Megan Griffith-Greene, the service features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “‘We’re going to tell you what’s important and you’re going to sit there and listen and then we’ll move on.’ That perspective has been pretty white and male and kind of elitist and it’s failing. It’s not working. It doesn’t serve people.” 

Service journalism, Griffith-Greene says, can fill this gap and more newsrooms are realizing the value and importance of what had previously been “maligned” and considered the stuff of women’s magazines.

She defines service journalism as helping people solve problems. “As journalists, I think we’re very good at pointing out problems. We’re less good at helping people solve them.

“Good service journalism is really hard to do,” she says. “It’s really hard to do a good job with this, to provide a good and useful resource for people. It’s not as easy as I think people assume.”

The core of service journalism is finding what people need to know in their daily lives, what information they need to make decisions, and helping them find and utilize it, she says. 

“There’s a shift to being more listening focused, more community focused; listening to what people tell us, that this is the information we need and centering our reporting on that,” Griffith-Greene says. 

This also helps make reporters essential to the communities in which they live and work. “It feels like an obvious place to start, but what do you need? What do you need help with and how can we be an access point,” she says. “We have access to a range of experts. We can help people solve those problems. We’re uniquely positioned to help people solve those problems. It’s an important step in building trust and becoming essential to our communities.” 

It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Megan Griffith-Greene, service features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. They discuss what service journalism means, how it can help reporters better understand their communities and why it’s no longer the territory of women’s magazines. 

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