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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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.
How KPCC-LAist Embraced Its Role As L.A.’s Help Desk
Between March and August 2020, the KPCC-LAist newsroom received more than 3,800 pandemic-related questions. Most of these have come through Hearken, an engagement platform that allows readers to ask questions through our website. We have also received more than 200 questions from community members via GroundSource’s SMS texting platform.
We personally answered more than 3,300 of those questions via email and text message, leveraging the reporting our newsroom was already doing. We had developed the framework for this kind of help desk approach through previous election and wildfire engagement initiatives.
We staggered schedules to allow for all-day coverage seven days a week. We hired a temporary engagement producer to support the team’s efforts. We maintained a master database that includes questions, the askers’ contact information and whether a reporter is interested or has reached out to them, among other details. This allows producers, reporters and editors to easily search for trends, story ideas and potential sources.
We want to answer people’s questions in their preferred time frame, language and platform. To that end, we have turned to text messaging and direct mail distribution to reach people without reliable internet access.
Our texting service has grown to include a six-day-a-week coronavirus news roundup that is sent to more than 250 people. About 38 percent of L.A. County residents speak Spanish. So, we’ve directed many of our COVID-19 engagement efforts toward Spanish speakers. Of the 12,670 mailers that were sent to households in May, over 7000 were in Spanish and included links to resources and our texting service.
We also turned to local community, ethnic, and in-language media to reach different audiences with important coronavirus-related information. For example, we made content available to newsrooms like Boyle Heights Beat, which serves an immigrant neighborhood in East L.A., and have had a journalist regularly appear on KAZN, a Mandarin-language radio station.
We've heard meaningful feedback from those whose questions were answered, comments like: "If I haven't said it, Thank you. I'm totally impressed that you're actually asking and responding and being engaged with the community. I think I'll take my texting fingers to the computer and make a donation to KPCC. I listen all day, every day. Thank you."
Another question-asker shared how she'd discovered LAist while Googling her COVID-19 questions. When we not only provided a space to ask but also a quick response, she found herself coming back to the site over and over, now saying she won't go anywhere else for essential news.
The initiative prompted several donations.