Current is calling on all authentically, awesomely local media to participate in the 2021 Local that Works contest. The Grand Prize is $20,000.
Local that Works was created to inspire stations to be more local. Local that Works draws national attention to innovative and replicable local content, engagement and revenue initiatives. By sharing the cool things you and others are creating on air, online and in your communities, we hope to offer up ideas worth stealing.
Over the past four years, Local that Works has expanded beyond public broadcasting to include nonprofit news organizations, and this year we are opening the doors more widely to invite contest submissions from other local media, such as community and ethnic newspapers. It’s important to learn about successful strategies outside our own bubbles and to pursue collaborations with other community-based media committed to excellence and public service.
What exactly do we mean by Local that Works? Each year, the contest entries that rise to the semifinalist stage tend to be original projects that create a sense of place or pride, strengthen community, foster dialogue, celebrate culture, spark civic engagement, have a digital component, partner with other community institutions or other media, give voice to underserved populations and/or engage new and diverse audiences.
Last year’s winner was Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news startup that covers immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota. Launched with support from Minnesota Public Radio, Sahan Journal demonstrates how newsrooms of all sizes can produce inclusive and authentic reporting on the life experiences of immigrants.
Framed, a project of WDET-FM, took the top prize in 2019. Framed pairs photographers and storytellers to capture the vibrancy of Detroit’s ethnic neighborhoods, then invites people to engage with the content (and one another) at pop-up art galleries. Framed shows how a media organization can partner with artists to create meaningful content that reflects the diversity of a community.
Alaska Public Media won for Community in Unity, a project that facilitated group conversations on thorny issues. Community in Unity brought citizens into prisons to meet with incarcerated people and discuss restorative justice and related topics. Community in Unity is an example of how media organizations act as trusted conveners, providing opportunities to promote listening, dialogue, deeper understanding and problem-solving.
So, think about what your organization accomplished in the last year or two. Perhaps you have many projects to be proud of, but which one or maybe two really represent your “best in local?” Did you create a powerful events series, an investigative journalism collaboration, a storytelling project, a new way to engage with audiences? Did you experiment on a new platform or implement a strategy that’s helping you look and sound more like your community? Is your Local that Works Local that Wows?
Let me offer a few recommendations to guide you in the 2021 contest. Please don’t just show up on deadline day Aug. 23 and hit submit! Spend some time crafting a well-written entry that concisely and persuasively tells your story and explains the real impact of your work.
We always receive entries for projects that haven’t actually launched yet, with narratives that detail what the producer hopes or anticipates will occur. Most of the time, there isn’t enough to say yet, so if your initiative doesn’t get off the ground until the fall, we suggest you save it for next year!
For now, I invite you to peruse the Local that Works database and check out past winners, finalists and semifinalists. Then submit your entry no later than midnight Aug. 23. Finalists will be announced in September and will present their projects to a vote at a virtual gala later in the fall.