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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Shaping Narratives

WGVU Public Media
2021
Joint Licensee
Steve Chappell
chappels@gvsu.edu
https://www.wgvu.org/shaping-narratives/

The problem that our Shaping Narratives initiative is trying to address is that racial minorities do not have enough access to platforms where the issues that affect them are decided. The outcome we want to see is more action-oriented community engagement and a cohort of leaders, trained by WGVU, effectively elevating narratives of racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Over time this model will increase their capacity to shape and influence social narratives sustainably. The long-term goal is to build media, community organizing and civic engagement capacity into West Michigan’s racial minority networks so they can influence the structures causing racialized outcomes.

WGVU’s Shaping Narratives participants have produced five pilot programs, built from the ground up on the values of inclusion, community and equity. Our host/producers are leaders of color in West Michigan who designed their programs with their communities and for their communities. Shaping Narratives is more than broadcast content. We have wedded the production process to community engagement. Each of our participants has simultaneously developed a half hour pilot program, a local affinity group and a social media following oriented toward addressing issues they are passionate about.

(1)-Ngiiwe (TV) was produced by Lin Bardwell, a Native woman from Grand Rapids, who is searching for a way to reclaim the relationships and traditions of her ancestors as her life in the city presents contemporary dilemmas.
(2)-Color Out Here (TV), produced by Alice Jasper, a biracial woman raised in Brooklyn, reframes how you see the outdoors, the environment, and Michigan places you think you know, as she leads expeditions of urban Black and Biracial residents of West Michigan to the outdoors.
(3)-Meeting God (TV), produced by Rishi Makkar, a devout Sikh businessman in West Michigan, takes viewers on a journey to learn about humanity’s common values by exchanging immersive spiritual experiences.
(4)-The Black Honest Truth (Podcast), produced by Christine Mwangi, born in Kenya and educated in the US and England, explores the lived experience of blackness in America as both common and distinct between African Americans and African Immigrants and refugees.
(5)-Cultural Ingredients (TV), produced by George Walker, a chef and sommelier explores the geopolitical events that make it possible for us to taste food from around the world—one dish at a time, one ingredient at a time, one person at a time.

We have seen our goal to build capacity in communities of color come to fruition. We trained five leaders of color over 30 weeks. This training, in partnership with the GVSU Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, covered decolonizing narratives, media and production skills and community organizing as a distribution strategy. This training enabled participants to design and produce TV and radio programs that addressed the needs they identified as impacting children and families of color in West Michigan. These programs were previewed at a large preview event in November 2019. The pilot programs then aired on WGVU. The community-support teams, created as part of the process, will be scheduling screenings throughout Grand Rapids and beyond. This community engagement is the key component we will build upon to spark change-based conversations as a method of increasing the impact in the communities we serve.

This initiative has thus far been funded through a grant and in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.