Inform your community’s vote

When your community has a voice in the political coverage you produce, a representative democracy is possible.

Hearken supports you in creating participatory, democratic processes for determining what you cover and how you cover it.

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Democracy SOS

Democracy SOS is a hub for journalists seeking to advance democracy through their coverage.

This initiative is a collaborative effort, created and maintained in partnership between Hearken and the Center for Cooperative Media, Democracy Day, The Solutions Journalism Network, Trusting News, Good Conflict, and The Center for Journalism & Democracy.

We are nonpartisan and are not advocating for any policy or electoral outcome. Our goal is to equip journalists and newsrooms with the most useful information and strategies around reporting on a variety of democracy and election-related topics, alongside methods for meaningfully building trust, engaging and empowering the communities they aim to serve.

The Citizens Agenda

Find out what the electorate wants politicians to address

In collaboration with influential journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen, Hearken has created a step-by-step guide to an audience-centric reporting method that better serves voters.

We call it The Citizens Agenda — it’s public-powered journalism applied to elections coverage.

Download the guide and see examples of this approach in action at thecitizensagenda.org.

Of the newsrooms who participated in our Engaged Elections training in the 2020 elections cycle,


said participating built trust between their newsroom and their community members


said participating helped them be more able to listen and respond to their communities


said participating increased the size of their audience


said they will use the engagement strategies they learned in the next election

From: Robinson, Sue. (Forthcoming). How Journalists Engage: A theory of trust-building for a multicultural world. Oxford University Press

The Citizens Agenda training helped us reassess how our election coverage impacts the communities we serve.”

Carlos Virgen, Digital News Director, The Day

“We definitely want to continue the Citizens Agenda model … It helped us engage with our readers more, which is not only great for our long term sustainability, but also helps them become a better informed audience for voting.”

Citizens Agenda Training Participant

“The Citizens Agenda led to us using engagement as a comprehensive, multi-faceted, open-ended ongoing approach to an editorial focus. Though we’ve done engagement work with great success in the past, it’s often been either too open ended, without clear goals and strong follow through on what we’re doing with community response, or limited/static, like doing a callout to crowdsource ideas for one story. 

Asking people for their questions (in general, and for particular officials) was also new and really important to the success. We also for the first time directly responded individually to respondents in a systematic way to answer their questions and share pertinent coverage.”

Participants from the Cap Times newspaper in Madison, WI

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Election SOS

Election SOS is dedicated to supporting U.S. journalists in responding to critical election information needs. We offer training for journalists, connecting them to best practices, resources and support around election coverage.

What started with a call for radically different campaign coverage became a multifaceted initiative producing training, emergency response guides, a rolodex of diverse sources for elections-related issues, extremism support, rapid response grants and a fellowship program placing 37 up-and-coming journalists in 20 newsrooms for additional election support.

Election SOS is created by Hearken with the support of Trusting News and is fiscally sponsored by the American Press Institute with lead funding from The Democracy Fund. 

Advancing Democracy Fellowship

Advancing Democracy is a nine-month fellowship program that supports reporters and editors in strengthening our democracy through innovative news coverage that highlights promising responses to our democracy’s challenges, and builds civic engagement, equity and healthy discourse.

Run by four journalism support groups – Solutions Journalism Network, Hearken, Trusting News, and Good Conflict, this fellowship helps newsrooms shift their political reporting away from horse-race narratives focusing on candidates and opinion polls toward stories that prioritize the key concerns of communities, and highlight problem-solving approaches to address them, as well as be more transparent and nuanced in their reporting. Newsrooms participate in a curriculum that includes training in the Citizens Agenda approachsolutions journalismEngaged ElectionsGood Conflict and building trust with audiences.

Hearken's EMS question embed
Hearken's EMS question embed

Democracy Toolkit

The Democracy Toolkit is a collection of resources created in partnership with The Center for Journalism & Democracy at Howard University as part of the November 15, 2022 Democracy Summit for journalists. 

The Summit invited historians, authors, journalists, lawyers, and experts in democracy to speak about and more closely examine the current threats to American democracy from a journalistic lens.

The Toolkit is a reference guide offering resources to journalists and the general public alike. The Toolkit highlights dozens of organizations engaging in pro-democracy work, shares a broad array of resources (including books, podcasts, toolkits, classroom resources, and more), offers several case studies from organizations large and small, and showcases the speakers from the Summit. 

Interested in working with Hearken to support democracy?