Local that Works


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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Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present & Future

New Mexico PBS/KNME-TV
2021
Public TV
Laura Paskus
lpaskus@nmpbs.org
https://www.newmexicopbs.org/productions/newmexicoinfocus/our-land/

“Our Land” is a monthly environmental series that airs on our longstanding public affairs series “New Mexico in Focus.” It is actually the only broadcast series dedicated to covering environmental issues in the state and one of the few in the region. Topics covered on the show range from climate change in New Mexico, to impacts of the Border Wall on local wildlife, water planning issues, the importance of urban forests and how to create your own backyard wildlife refuge. The series is a terrific way to get us out of the studio and into the outdoor spaces and places that make New Mexico such a unique and diverse state.

Our Land has quickly grown into much more than just a once a month report on New Mexico in Focus, though. Several of our episodes have also been turned into PBS Learning Media modules, and our Education and Outreach department has started centering some of their monthly public Science Café events around these pieces as well. The series has also expanded into a robust weekly newsletter that has more than 500 subscribers and an open rate of 54% (more than 25% higher than the industry average).

During the last year, we also launched social media platforms for the series on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. All of them are performing very well, especially when it comes to engagement. We hope to build on that momentum with more virtual and in person discussions and gatherings, once the COVID-19 pandemic allows. These channels have also helped us to connect to entirely different audiences. Our web analytics show 62% of our Instagram followers are under the age of 55, and those numbers are reflected in the demographics of our other social media channels as well.

In addition, our work with this series landed us one of the first ever Frontline local investigation grants, where we uncovered the impacts of PFAS contamination in the groundwater near a handful of military installations in New Mexico. That project has won a slew of awards, including a first place in the extended coverage in the 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Top of the Rockies Award. It has also brought increased attention to a hugely underreported issue in New Mexico and one that touches on a variety of issue, including our state’s ongoing dependence on federal money, despite the potentially devastating affects of military activity in our state dating back to the creation of the atomic bomb at White Sands Missile Range in the 1940s.

The impact of "Our Land" has been profound. As research from Yale University and the Pew Research Center recently reported, a vast majority of Americans are interested in the impacts of climate change at the local level and feel it is already impacting their daily lives. "Our Land" has made it one of our focal points to make the science accessible and relevant. Viewers tell us all the time that they appreciate the attention to the issue and the fact that we try to present solutions as well as point out the problem. A good example of that is one episode that looked at how local water managers are looking at creative ways to manage our shrinking water supplies, or another report on a collaborative approach to forest management in Northern New Mexico that has become an economic development driver as well.

Several of our stories on climate change have now been turned into PBS Learning Media modules, and we are already hearing back from educators across the state about how excited they are to use our reporting in their classrooms. We have even heard anecdotal stories about how church leaders are using our reporting to initiate conversations about climate change in their congregations.

Other people are starting to take notice of Our Land as well. This year, we were selected by the Local Media Association for its first ever Covering Climate Initiative (one of only 22 newsrooms nationwide). Our work has also been shared by the likes of High Country News.

We know environmental coverage is highly desirable to funders right now and "Our Land" is no different. Just as an example, in 2020, we received a grant from the Water Desk at the University of Colorado to examine impacts of the Gold King Mine spill. In addition, we received one of the first Frontline Local Journalism Initiative grants to investigate groundwater contamination near 6 military installations. We're also see great potential in launching a crowdfunding campaign around "Our Land."