Five finalists selected for the 2021 Local that Works contest

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Five projects that pushed boundaries and created partnerships to engage new, diverse audiences will compete as finalists in the 2021 Local that Works contest.

Judges selected the projects from a slate of 20 semifinalists announced earlier this month.

Local that Works, an ongoing project to recognize excellence in local content, community engagement and revenue initiatives, is a collaboration of Current and Public Media Futures that’s funded by the Wyncote Foundation.

In selecting this year’s finalists, judges from our partner organizations prioritized innovation in efforts to address diversity and inclusion. These innovative initiatives also meet a core criterion for Local that Works: They can be replicated, scaled or adapted by other media organizations.

The finalists are:

News414, a collaboration between Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, uses text messaging to provide residents with essential information that can improve their lives and their communities. News414 first surveyed residents in two majority-Black and Latino ZIP codes about the issues most important to them. Its text-messaging model, developed by Detroit’s Outlier Media, answers questions, shares reporting and helps connect people with resources to meet their immediate basic needs, like food support or utility and rental assistance.

News and Information Community Exchange (N.I.C.E.) is WHYY’s effort to transform Philadelphia’s local news ecosystem by identifying, engaging and supporting grassroots content creators in the community. N.I.C.E. community partners help WHYY diversify its sources and break stories, enabling the station to build trust with and reach new audiences. Based on the concept of mutual aid, WHYY helps develop the professional skills of N.I.C.E. partners and amplifies their voices. The station taps N.I.C.E. partners early in its reporting process to pursue collaborations that ensure coverage is community-centered and more authentically representing Philadelphia’s racial and economic demographics.

The Recording Inclusivity Initiative is All Classical Portland’s effort to remedy white, male dominance in the classical music genre by actively changing the playlist. The station invited listeners and Pacific Northwest artists to nominate works by classical composers from underrepresented communities. A committee then selected five works to record and distribute to classical stations and to the public through the station’s partnership with Naxos Records. ACP is creating a how-to kit so that other classical stations can join this effort. The initiative aims to expand appreciation of previously marginalized voices and drive industrywide change.

Mission Metrics is a community feedback project by digital startup The Oaklandside in Oakland, Calif. Before it launched in June 2020, The Oaklandside did a listening tour of its community and developed a set of values to guide its reporting and track accountability to its mission. Among their seven key mission metrics: amplifying diverse community voices; reshaping harmful narratives about Oakland; reporting for and not only about people dealing with problems in the city; investigating systems, not just symptoms. The Oaklandside recruited a diverse group of residents to serve as paid community advisors to monitor the news organization’s content and offer feedback based on the mission metrics. 

Mass. Election Prep: Become an Informed Voter in 7 Days, an automated newsletter co-produced by WBUR and El Planeta: Boston’s Latino Daily, delivered multimedia explanatory journalism and accessible guidance on topics related to the November 2020 elections. WBUR partnered with El Planeta to translate the newsletter and push it out to Greater Boston’s Latinx communities, helping WBUR engage with new audiences.             

Judges who selected finalist projects include Local that Works partners Andrew Ramsammy of the Local Media Association, Kristen Hare of Poynter, Andrew DeVigal of Gather, Christine Paige Diers of the Public Media Journalists Association, Mark Fuerst of Public Media Futures and Julie Drizin of Current.

Each of the finalists will present their projects in November during a virtual finale event where attendees will vote for the winner of a $20,000 grand prize. Details to be announced soon. To receive your invitation to participate in this inspiring special event, sign up for Current’s newsletter.

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