The engagement initiative America Amplified will expand its efforts to provide information about voting and elections to underserved communities with a $1.5 million grant from CPB.
The two-year grant allows the journalism engagement center based at WFYI in Indianapolis to provide training and other resources to stations in all 50 states during the 2024 general election, according to Managing Editor Alisa Barba.
“It’s an exciting time for public media to be experimenting with new ways of reaching the entire communities that they serve rather than the audiences that they have served so well in the past,” Barba said.
The grant extends the approach that America Amplified piloted during the 2022 midterm elections. Thirty stations in 25 states participated in the pilot, which used Hearken’s engagement platform to answer audience questions about election participation. America Amplified staff collaborated with station editorial teams to answer questions that audience members submitted through the Hearken platform.
For the 2024 elections, America Amplified will be pushing stations to reach beyond their established audiences and answer questions from communities that are underserved by public media. Barba said the intention is to provide training, resources and guidance for stations to engage and build trust with these communities.
This could mean providing stations with the translation tools to create coverage for Spanish-speaking audiences, for example, or facilitating partnerships with organizations that already serve a targeted community, Barba said.
“It’s going to take some time,” Barba said. “But this is a project where stations will be choosing one specific community that they really want to reach with hopes to make inroads.”
In addition to extending participation to more stations, America Amplified will work with preexisting networks of news organizations that collaborate on statewide election coverage, Barba said. These collaborations are independent of America Amplified and can include nonprofit, for-profit and public media newsrooms. One newsroom within each network will function as the official America Amplified liaison and directly receive training before distributing it to its network.
Barba anticipates that participating stations will come into the project with a wide range of experiences with community engagement journalism.
“Some stations aspire to do some engagement kind of journalism but just do not have the staff or the bandwidth,” Barba said.
America Amplified will support these stations by providing training, mentorship and support for their engagement strategies, Barba said. She hopes to show how this kind of project can strengthen the trust communities have in public media.
“Fundamentally, we hope to demonstrate that this kind of engaged journalism is a winning strategy for building an audience and building trust,” Barba said.