Project Manager, "Complicated Narratives"

Solutions Journalism Network, New York, New York

Date PostedJune 07, 2019
Job StatusFull-time

Title: Manager, The Complicated Narratives Project

Position type: Full time/contract
Applications due: June 16, 5EDT
Start date: July 8

Background: As the 2020 election approaches, many Americans are shocked and dismayed by the collapse of civic discourse. Polarization, tribalism, distrust and misunderstanding rule political life and are increasingly fraying the social fabric. We struggle to talk to one another, to listen respectfully, and even to acknowledge the full humanity of others with whom we strongly disagree. Problem-solving is sabotaged by the impulse to disparage, blame or demonize.

For the most part, the news makes things worse. Journalists gravitate towards extreme voices and treat them as representative. We search for conflict, and focus on dysfunction and failure, often at superficial or “sound bite” levels, and often fail to probe more deeply to understand what’s underneath the conflict, like feelings of hurt, loss, alienation, anxiety, or fear.

In 2018, SJN commissioned groundbreaking research that asked the following: What if journalists covered hot-button issues differently?—?based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious? "Complicating the Narratives” (CTN) (located here:, the resulting research and essay, powerfully explained what journalists can learn from experts in conflict mediation. It showed how journalists can do better to reveal the complexity and nuance in many stories — qualities that are essential to break through the oversimplified frames that are so polarizing.

SJN is building on the research -- and on the excitement it generated -- with a project that will do the following: (1) help to change the view — which is false, but widespread among journalists — that the public actually seeks more conflict and polarization in political coverage; (2) equip journalists with the reporting skills to get underneath conflict to capture people’s experiences and motivations — instead of their positions — and open up more space for empathetic understanding (if not agreement) on divisive issues; and (3) seed pilot projects anchored in CTN principles in several communities.

Role description: SJN is seeking a project manager with a strong journalism background to lead this work.

This person will be responsible for:

--Supporting SJN staff as they bring CTN principles into our work with news organizations;
--Helping newsrooms plan and host public engagement events that facilitate improved civic dialogue;
--Stewarding exemplar projects centered on CTN practices in several geographically and demographically diverse communities;
--Planning and leading CTN skills trainings for journalists;
--Developing CTN training resources that reflect both the principles of the practice and learning from its real-life application;
--Guiding the expansion of the initiative -- including identifying, training, and deploying trainers who will expand adoption of the CTN approach by journalists and newsrooms
--Providing evaluative insights that will inform even greater scaling of this potentially transformative work.

What we need:

--A focused entrepreneur, someone who sees opportunities at every turn—and can execute upon them;
--Someone with an appetite for experimentation;
--A highly organized and skilled project manager;
--Serious journalism chops;
--Experience with facilitation and/or community engagement techniques.

Other important things:

--This is a one-year, full-time contract position. We will decide based on the results of the project’s initial phase whether to make the role permanent.
--SJN is based in NYC, but this role could be anchored anywhere in the U.S. There will be significant travel.
--Compensation: $80,000 to $100,000, commensurate with experience. Flexible work schedule.

***To kick off this work, SJN is hosting a 5-day workshop at a ranch in Emigrant, Montana, from July 15-19, focusing on mediation techniques and project strategy. We would love this person to join us for the week.***

Diversity of perspective, identity, and experience are incredibly important to us: We want to reflect and serve the whole of society. As a result, we encourage diverse applicants to seek employment, and we make all employment decisions without regard to race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or any other factors protected by federal, state or local law. SJN is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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