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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Utah’s historic Great Salt Lake is shrinking. The Great Salt Lake Collaborative’s solutions journalism and community engagement is bringing people to the lake and the lake’s plight to the people.
The Recording Inclusivity Initiative addresses the scarcity of classical music composers from historically excluded communities heard on the radio airwaves across the USA by producing new recordings.
Sahan Journal, an independent, nonprofit news site in partnership with MPR News, serves the immigrant and refugee populations of Minnesota with professional journalism centered on immigrant lives, voices, and experiences. It has been publishing essential pandemic coverage in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish, in order to be accessible to the three largest immigrant groups in the state.
“Framed by WDET” is a multimedia series that integrates photography and audio storytelling to present the story of Detroit’s ethnic and cultural communities on the radio, online, in a photobook, and at pop-up exhibitions in more than 20 art spaces in the Detroit region and beyond. It explores the moments and spaces that Detroiters share with one another through the work of 18 Detroit-based photographers and audio producers.
Community in Unity is a solutions journalism project and event series from Alaska Public Media to begin critical and thoughtful dialogue between different people. APM works with community partners to invite people inside homeless shelters, community centers, prisons, and TV studios for recorded conversations about topics that are affecting them. Topics have ranged from race and identity to mental health, immigration, and incarceration.
Ode is a bimonthly live storytelling event from KWIT-KOJI Siouxland Public Media, of which Stories Without Borders was one installment. For this particular evening, the station teamed up with two other nonprofit organizations: the Mary Treglia Community House, whose mission is to help immigrants living in the community, and the Sioux City Art Center. Six storytellers stood before a live audience to tell their stories of leaving one home for another.
Great Salt Lake Collaborative
The Great Salt Lake Collaborative was created in October 2021 to illuminate how people can better support the shrinking Great Salt Lake through solutions stories, reaching new audiences, elevating the issue of the lake’s crisis and thus impacting change in water policy and water conservation. Digital, television, commercial and public radio stations, along with print outlets in Utah are embarking on joint solution reporting projects and community outreach efforts. Thirteen news organizations that in the past have competed for viewers/listeners have already shared nearly 120 articles about the lake. We created a website to share all of those stories (greatsaltlakenews.org).
Journalists have trained on how to identify and investigate solutions as they write about the impacts of the shrinking lake on Utah’s climate, summer and winter outdoor recreation, lake ecology, brine shrimp cyst production (sea monkey), bird ecosystems, tourism, and public health. Ten community organizations representing scientists, writers, librarians, researchers, historians, and artists are educating the public about new ways to appreciate and protect the lake. We are bringing people to the lake and the lake to the people through social media, trivia nights, tabling at various community events, and launching lake tours. Library events, a writing contest, as well as a short-film competition for youth have also been held. The project has brought together underrepresented interests, including members of eight federally recognized sovereign tribes of Utah, to provide opportunities to share their history and solution ideas.
We organized and sponsored a “Salty” trivia gaming night, Coffee and Conversations, community and policy maker forums, a film screening, and Earth Day events with more to come. A radio and podcast series, Lake Effect, began with an invitation to Utah residents asking them to share their Great Salt Lake experiences through audio storytelling. Sixth grade students and their instructor responded and shared stories about playing with their siblings in the lake, riding bikes around the shore, birdwatching, and their concerns as they watch the lake disappear. We even partnered with Salt Lake Tribune cartoon artist, Pat Bagley, who created our collaborative mascot for pins, removable tattoos and stickers to bring awareness and have a bit of fun.
Great Salt Lake Collaborative is redefining what it means to do journalism. We have achieved one of the collaborative’s first impact goals; bringing together Utah newsrooms that are dedicating resources to research and distribute stories about the area’s dying ecosystems, exposed arsenic laced lakebed, and loss of wetlands habitat. Thirteen newsrooms have produced and distributed 120 stories through their outlets. Stories are available to any news organization, whether they are part of the collaboration or not.
Community impact can also be measured by the number of partners working with us to elevate the issue with events in our communities and out on the lake. There are 10 community partners coordinating events, producing video web content, organizing youth activities, and creating time-lapse history for our website.
We created an audience survey to find out what people want to know about the lake. We have received 394 responses and more than 500 individuals have signed up for our newsletter.
One of our organization’s main objectives is to see water policy changes to reduce the flow from the lake. The Utah Legislature meets next February. Great Salt Lake is sure to be a primary topic. We strive to present solutions that work elsewhere that lawmakers could adopt. If we continue to do this right, we can help the Wasatch Front tackle the thorny issue of water policy as it relates to the Great Salt Lake.
GSL collaborative was awarded $200,000 from the Knight Foundation via Solutions Journalism Network’s Local Media Project, whose goal is to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. Funds have been used to hire a project manager, student intern, and pay for travel. We are soliciting donations and additional funding to continue the collaborative beyond the two-year mark, with the hope of encouraging policy change.