Journalism is about telling stories. I became a journalist because I loved the feeling of discovering something and sharing that with people - making them laugh, cry, or enraging them about an injustice to the point that they just had to do something about it. And the question people ask me most about journalism is this: how is news made? How do you know what’s happening?
This is how you know: you interview people, you ask questions, you build relationships with people who know more than you do, you keep an open mind. The full truth is always more complex and messy and fascinating than the headline. But most of all, you listen.
So I am delighted to announce our HuffPost Listens project. We are beginning a journalistic endeavour to go back to the basics of how you get a story: by listening to people.
We have relocated our entire team of 45 journalists to Birmingham for the whole of this week (July 2-8), to open up our newsroom in a public space in the city’s famous Bullring shopping centre. From there, we will go out into the city and ask our readers to tell us the issues that really matter and that we should be reporting on.
Our colleagues at HuffPost US inspired us. Last year, they set off around America on a converted bus, visiting Trump’s heartlands. You can read more about that here. In the UK context, and after Boris Johnson ruined slogans on buses forever, we wanted to do something that took us out into the country more permanently. We wanted to step away from the media bubble and tell the untold story of life in the UK. We wanted to shift our centre of gravity away from London.
Why are we doing this? There’s a global problem of trust in the media. Maybe it’s because of fake news on the internet. Maybe it’s because the US media misread the public mood and called the Trump election wrong. Maybe it’s because parts of the UK media called Brexit wrong. But maybe there’s also a bigger problem: journalists are spending less time out of the office among the people we write about. If we can step away from our laptops, turn off social media and instead spend more time listening to people, I believe we will understand more and in doing so, produce better journalism.
We hope to find surprising stories, challenge our own ideas about what people want to read, and form a deep relationship with this city that will live on far beyond the duration of the project. We have partnered with Birmingham Live, and are also hiring the established Birmingham journalist Amardeep Bassey to join our team and report from the city permanently. Next, we have hired in the north of England, and we’ll keep expanding into the country to better report on people’s lives.
So that’s the plan. A radical listening project, starting this week in Birmingham and telling the real story of Britain from the heart of one of its biggest and best cities.
Join us and help to shape the news. We’ll listen, and we’ll tell your story. #HuffPostListens
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
• Visit our open newsroom at the Bullring and tell us your story: We’re by the Rotunda, next door to Next, The Newsroom, Upper East Mall, Bullring, Birmingham, B5 4BG
Opening times: Mon-Friday: 10am-8pm, Sat 9am-8pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
• Find us across the city on mobile “Listening Posts” and tell us your story:
Birmingham Moor Street Station
Birmingham Town Hall
Birmingham City Centre, Marks & Spencer
• Email listentobirmingham@huffpost.
com, or WhatsApp +44 78968 04043 and tell us your story
• Join our Facebook group and tell us your story
• Visit huffpost.co.uk from Monday and read your stories there