Local that Works spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations and nonprofit and digital news organizations in the U.S. LTW includes an annual contest and a database (below). LTW produces webinars that offer insights into projects and organizations that are reshaping local civic journalism.
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Jacksonville is one of the largest cities in the U.S., yet its media landscape is shrinking. The Jacksonville Today newsletter helps fill the gap with a must-read guide to civic life.
In Troy NY, a neighborhood works to shift divisions and narratives through community-driven art. WMHT tells the story through digital and broadcast content and engagement events.
KUT takes ATXplained – its crowd-sourced reporting series – to the stage for ATXplained Live, an evening of live storytelling based on listener questions about Austin’s people, places and culture.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the KPCC-LAist newsroom has invited questions from its audience. Nearly 4,000 people have written in and in answering the questions, we have found new sources, new stories and new audiences, and more than half of the participants have opted into newsletters.
First BenitoLink went to school on democratic engagement. Then BenitoLink went to work.
KUER’s Interactive Local Government Reporting is a multimedia initiative that makes it easy for our audience to find specific answers to questions about their elected leaders, public policies and laws, with the goal that community members feel empowered to participate in the democratic process and vote.
The Bay is a local KQED podcast about news and information relevant to the local community. The team has hosted several well-attended live events and has created spaces, both in person and digital, where community members can connect with one another and the podcast. It connects with younger audiences and fills a gap in KQED’s traditional television and radio programming lineup.
WFDD hosts community conversations on topics that impact local residents. Using a Hearken-powered web module, listeners voted for mental health to be the focus of one such conversation. WFDD reporters covered relevant stories in the days leading up to the public event, during which listeners had round table discussions with one another. WFDD reporters solicited questions for follow-up coverage and connected interested listeners directly with the stories that came out.
KPCC’s Human Voter Guide started in 2016 as a series of questions and answers on the radio and online. Its goal was to help Southern California residents navigate elections and voting through personalized research. Using the web-based engagement platform Hearken and the text-messaging engagement service GroundSource, KPCC is now able to track a larger volume of questions and offer election-related reminders via text message.
Podcast Party is a live event that brings together several of our station’s podcasts. For one evening, our listeners can see their favorite podcast hosts and get a new perspective of some of their favorite stories. Over the course of two hours, the event is a multi-act showcase of our podcasts in new, creative, whimsical and thought-provoking interpretations. This includes a live musical performance, a short exercise break and a puppet show version of an episode of Curious Nashville.
Every day at KUT, we try to think about what you want to know. That’s what drives the decisions we make about the stories we tell. But we wanted to try an experiment to bring you, the audience, closer to the news and storytelling we do at KUT. So, we’re starting a project called ATXplained. The project starts with a simple question: What are you curious about?
Bay Curious is a podcast that that aims to involve our community in coverage. Viewers help decide the topics and help investigate.
A Hearken Project exploring a deeper partnership with the local daily newspaper (under new ownership). “Are you curious about Columbus? Find yourself asking questions about the city, the region or the people of central Ohio? Then submit your question to Curious Cbus and we’ll work on getting answers, together, through the resources of 89.7 NPR News, WOSU TV, Classical 101, and the WOSU Digital Media teams.”
In 2015 Kansas City PBS became a partner of Hearken, a public-powered journalism initiative that collects questions from the public and bases reporting from those questions. Curious KC asks: “What do you wonder about Kansas City, the region or its people that you would like KCPT to investigate?” Reporting on community-submitted questions has added a kind of user testing to the station’s editorial process.
Hearken is an innovative “participative journalism” platform, built on a foundation laid by the Localore-funded Curious City project at WBEZ, Chicago. It provides a unique “audience-driven” news reporting platform and approach that helps journalists “partner with the public to create relevant and high-performing stories” using digital tools and engagement strategies.
Imagine you’re part of a family of five, but four of you let the other one decide what everyone eats for dinner, every night. That’s Jacksonville elections: a small minority controlling what happens to everyone.
In the last Duval County election that didn’t have a president on the ballot, just over 20% of eligible voters showed up to have their say. The vast majority of registered voters sat on the sidelines in February 2022, when we had a chance to pick a countywide at-large City Council member (and just over 13% voted in the countywide election before that). And yet those elected officials make decisions that touch every resident of one of the largest cities in the U.S.
The American Economic Review links low voter turnout with the nationwide decline in local reporting, citing that “turnout is depressed when voters have limited information about issues, candidates and elections.” Jacksonville’s traditional media landscape has shifted and shrunk in recent years, mirroring the decline in election participation. That’s why WJCT Public Media created Jacksonville Today: a non-partisan and nonprofit local news alternative rooted in civic engagement and embracing digital media’s many strengths.
Jacksonville Today launched its first product, a namesake email newsletter, in October 2021, heralding the arrival of a new way to stay informed on matters of local impact. Every weekday morning, subscribers receive a succinct mix of original, in-depth reporting, news highlights from around the region, and ways to get involved — in a format that’s quick to scan and easy to share. Since its debut, the newsletter has achieved a 55.79% open rate. (For comparison, MailChimp reports that the media and publishing industry average is 22.15%.)
Jacksonville Today’s newsletter and reporting are fueled by a dedicated team within WJCT Public Media’s newsroom, including longtime Editorial Director Jessica Palombo; newsletter and engagement editor Ric Anderson; three reporters; three opinion columnists and exclusive content from the Florida Center for Government Accountability and local city planning blog The Jaxson.
In less than a year, Jacksonville Today has become a morning read for more than 9,000 subscribers — and a trusted source of guidance for a growing, engaged, and informed readership who’s eager to play a role in the city’s evolving story.
More than 9,000 people have signed up to receive Jacksonville Today, and its consistently high open rate — which is double the industry average — shows how much readers value the daily updates and information on candidates and voting. The two-way conversation with engaged readers includes Hearken question submissions, which we answer in #AskJAXTDY stories, as well as email responses to our stories that we publish in the newsletter. Readers tell us the newsletter helps them learn about opportunities to get involved and introduces them to new ways to enjoy life in Jacksonville. Here’s what some have said about Jacksonville Today…
"The coverage on the early voting was very helpful. I was able to attend a debate for the sheriff’s office, become familiar with the various races, locate the voting site, and most importantly, cast my precious ballot!”
Rajib from the Southside
"Every day I have enjoyed being a reader of Jacksonville Today, my sincere compliments for each issue. I’m a mature (lol) white man that works every day watching my words and actions to be as neutral and positive as possible to learn. The article from Nikesha Williams is excellent! I hope that you’re able to continue to reach as many minds daily as possible to help create more critical thinking!"
Henry from Ponte Vedra
"Hi, I really, really like your newsletter. Read it every day. Each paragraph is a nice, quick synopsis of the subject. Thanks and keep up the good work."
Elaine from East Arlington
Jacksonville Today is the centerpiece of WJCT Public Media’s Local Journalism Initiative, which has raised more than $2 million of its $2.5 million goal. Recent support includes $500,000 from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and $300,000 from the Jessie Ball duPont Equity and Placemaking Fund. Additional supporters include The Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, the Florida Blue Foundation, the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Report for America, and individual donors.