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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Conecta Arizona

Conecta Arizona
2021
Nonprofit News Org/Other
Maritza L. Félix
maritzalizethfelix@gmail.com
https://www.nbcuacademy.com/catalog/maritza-felix-conecta-arizona-whatsapp-group-journalism-border

A tidal wave of misinformation about Covid-19 in Spanish is washing over Latinx communities on social media, contributing to the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Hispanics in terms of illness, deaths and vaccination rates. Early in the pandemic we identified this problem, which most major news outlets and social media companies only recently began to acknowledge. Our response was the creation of Conecta Arizona. We use the same channels where misinformation is shared – WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, and Facebook – to provide a daily stream of accurate, factual and highly engaging information about Covid-19 and a wide range of related topics. We work with partners in Spanish-language print, broadcast, and online media on both sides of the U.S.- Mexico border to bust myths about Covid-19 and share news, advice and resources.Conecta Arizona has quickly become a vital and trusted source of information. It has also fostered a growing and highly engaged community that participates in conversations with experts on a broad range of issues.

Conecta Arizona is a place where people feel comfortable asking about paying their income taxes, mental health, educating their kids, and immigration. Members of our SMS groups share information with friends, family, and co-workers and post questions during a daily Q&A– La Hora del Cafecito. Once a week we have a special guest during the Q&A: an immigration lawyer, an accountant, a psychologist, a state legislator, the Mexican consul, a U.S. ambassador, an activist, or a marketing specialist; experts who answer our questions one by one without charging for their services or advice. We are making news coverage more inclusive and reflective of the rapidly changing demographics of Arizona and the interconnected nature of the border region. For Spanish-speakers who are hungry for reliable information and personal connections during the pandemic, Conecta Arizona is a lifeline.

We started as a WhatsApp group, and now have our own weekly radio show on Phoenix’s La Onda AM and FM, a weekly column in Prensa Arizona, the state’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, and frequent appearances in Mexican media that reaches audiences in the U.S. We recently launched a Substack newsletter. Journalists in other parts of the country with large Latinx populations have reached out to us asking for help to start their own “Conectas.”

Since its launch in May, 2020, Conecta Arizona has become a trusted source of information for Spanish-speakers in both Arizona and the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora. Conecta Arizona has achieved a remarkable level of engagement with its audience, so much so that it has gained national recognition as an innovator in reaching underserved Latinx news and information consumers.

Betty didn’t know where to get a marriage certificate in Arizona during the pandemic; Myriam couldn’t figure out if there were resources for undocumented workers who lost their job during the pandemic; Gloria’s son couldn't get the special attention he needs in school and needed help to find nonprofit organizations that help children with autism during the pandemic. They had simple day-to-day problems that felt overwhelming, because of misinformation and how much good information is only available in English. Through Conecta Arizona, we helped them.

An OpEd in The New York Times included Conecta Arizona in a list of Latinx media outlets that are engines of community change and local journalism. Conecta Arizona has formed alliances with large Latinx-owned Spanish-language media outlets in Arizona and the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora. Conecta Arizona has achieved an extraordinary level of engagement with our audience, with a reach of over 150,000 readers/viewers/listeners.

Conecta Arizona has received funding from The Listening Post Collective, Feet in 2 Worlds, and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship. In order to achieve sustainability we want to develop a community cooperative model that benefits from the close relationship we have with our audience. Many have expressed a willingness to pay for the service we provide. We want to build on this good will by developing multiple revenue streams including underwriting from local businesses, and consulting fees.