Giving Voice to A Community
Mar 2, 2011 @ 13:20
Facilitator: Joaquin Alvarado, Sr. Vice President, Digital Innovation, American Public Media
Scribe: Carolyn Torgersen, VP Marketing and Communications, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry
Background on the Public Insight Network
Founded in 2003, American Public Media's Public Insight Network expands community input in local journalism, and reporters’ source bases. How it works: People sign up for the network and identify their areas of knowledge and expertise. Participating journalists then search the database for knowledgeable sources, query them to test hunches, identify trends and support production of major projects. The network has nearly 100,000 sources around the country engaged with more than two dozen media partners, including ProPublica, The Miami Herald, WNYC public radio in New York, and KQED public radio in San Francisco, among others.
National programs of American Public Media include A Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace, Marketplace Money, The Splendid Table, Being, Performance Today, and special reports produced by its national documentary unit, American RadioWorks. American Public Media is the parent organization for Minnesota Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio and Classical South Florida.
Alvarado gave two examples of public involvement in reporting from American Public Media sources:
- The reissuing of the censored Huck Finn book caused a local teacher to write a position paper and be called on as a contributor to MPR (Minneapolis Public Radio) as well as 60 Minutes.
- The Chino Prison Riot drew in-person engagement from a woman who contacted the radio station to give examples of the problems that existed before and after the riot. As a result, reporters dug deeper into overcrowding issues and healthcare issues, among other topics.
Miami Herald – The newspaper’s Public Insight Network has allowed the paper to find new voices for articles. One example given was a cover story on underwater mortgages developed directly from the network’s sources.
Detroit Radio received a Knight Innovation Award for the work done through their Public Insight Network on tractor truck traffic through a southwest Detroit neighborhood. The story reported on the many tractor trailers driving illegally through Hispanic neighborhood which led to health and infrastructure issues. The radio station blanketed community members and encouraged them to enroll in a texting program providing locator maps of truck traffic. The findings were presented to the city which led to solutions.
The majority of the radio’s staff is from the region and 50% of staff is people of color. The news represents the community and the audience is up 50% in the last two years.
The audience broke into five teams to discuss examples of public involvement in community initiatives or outreach programs.
Red Team 1
Example: Miami – A local organization held change-maker conferences, comprised of people from all walks of life such as teenagers and low-income individuals. Multiple agencies were represented. The facilitator used the World Café model with 4-5 people around table. Each conference had an over-arching topic. The event ultimately resulted in a local food movement with an online tool to bring people together concerned about food. A Food Policy Council was created within two years time.
Blue Team 1
This local community’s Volunteers in Medicine agency and other human services agencies are struggling right now. They are trying to find ways to share stories to build the funder base. It was recommended that they produce testimonial videos to share with employers whose employees use the VIM services so that they may be encouraged to offer financial support.
Blue Team 2
Rochester – This community holds art walks in public spaces which are comprised many communities and local artists. It is reworked each year through breakfast engagement and design meetings to determine what the community wants to see.
Oklahoma – This community is moving to influence change through social media. The goal of reforming the prison system is reliant on an increased level of understanding of local government and the impact community members can have.
Red Team 2
Cleveland – Its Youth Development Initiative gives a voice to local youth
West Anniston – A nonprofit radio show and interactive website helps to bring the community together
Chicago – Small grants will be given to a variety of citizen journalists to report on state and local government. They have received 120 proposals and will award $110K in grants ($2K and $10K grants.)
Blue Team 3
West Palm Beach – This community hosts a weekly radio show focusing on a different community issue each week. There is particular emphasis on interviewing people directly involved with issues.
Pittsburgh – The initiative in this community is called 1,000 Conversations. Community members were asked “what does it mean to live in Homewood?” The information gathered has to led to improvements on a grassroots level.
The teams were then reconvened to discuss some solutions around the issues discussed.
- In order to get the word out, partner with newsrooms to guarantee coverage. Another video distribution method mentioned was Viewchange.org.
- Formulate building blocks for message dissemination. Provide statistics, information and stories for professional storytellers or journalists. Consider using a VNR (video news release) to create public interest.
- Consider lending Flip Cameras to grantees to videotape their grants in action.
- Research on the front end is important to determine how communities receive their information. It was found that some communities are DVD watchers rather than computer users.
- Find a local blogger making an impact in your community and employ them to spread your message.
- To develop grassroots leadership, the suggestion was made to make community members stakeholders in programs and projects to raise their voice.