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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The Oaklandside was founded on a commitment to listening. This is how we’re living up to that promise.
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.
WBUR and El Planeta partnered in 2020 to offer Mass. Election Prep. The award-winning, limited-run newsletter published in English and Spanish provided information on topics related to the election.
N.I.C.E. is a mutual-aid collaborative that builds partnerships with local Philadelphia journalists and media makers to help elevate their community-centered reporting and connect them with each other.
News414 is a resident-centered project that uses text messages, social media and events to engage underserved audiences. We plug information and accountability gaps in highly segregated Milwaukee.
Uncuffed is a podcast and radio series made by people incarcerated in California prisons. KALW producers teach them how to record and edit powerful audio stories about life on the inside. Uncuffed seeks to create emotional, human stories to shift the narrative around incarcerated people and change the criminal justice system.
As Detroit emerged as an early epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, Detroit Public Television (DPTV) became a key media partner in the COVID313 Coalition, a group of grassroots organizations that united to help Detroiters access critical information about services in the area. By producing a weekly town hall that was streamed on Facebook Live, as well as broadcasting segments on our weekly public affairs show One Detroit, DPTV and the COVID313 coalition filled a void in the emergency response system and connected our audience with life-saving services
The California Reporting Project is a statewide collaboration of 40 local and regional newsrooms working together to cover long-secret internal investigations of police officers which were unsealed in 2019. It is a locally driven, large-scale investigative journalism project that has published more than 100 stories, including several deep-dive investigations, exposed numerous failures in accountability, and led to dismissals of criminal charges in multiple cases.
“The Learning Space” is an educational program created by Maine Public in partnership with the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine. It is geared toward students in grades 3-5 and their teachers, and is intended to help bridge the gap for students without reliable internet access during COVID-19. It aired on Maine Public’s primary television channel and reached more than 180,000 people per episode, or roughly 90 classrooms.
When the editors and reporters of The Oaklandside launched our new nonprofit newsroom for Oakland in June 2020, we made a commitment to root our reporting firmly in the needs and wants of diverse communities across the city. Even before our launch and prior to the pandemic, our founders hosted a series of “community listening sessions” — deep in-person discussions with Oakland residents, where people told us what they wanted from a local news organization. Those rich conversations led to the formation of our founding newsroom values— a set of principles that have guided our reporting and our organization since our launch.
To hold ourselves accountable to that work, in the spring and summer of 2021, The Oaklandside piloted a successful “Mission Metrics” program designed to help us live up to our founding values and measure—both quantitatively and qualitatively—the impact of our journalism. At the center of that program was our inaugural cohort of paid Community Advisors—a diverse group of seven Oaklanders, one from each district in the city. Every week for two months, they provided our newsroom with written feedback on articles and tagged our stories with those “mission metrics”—a set of criteria we developed to measure our stories against our stated core newsroom values—that they thought the stories delivered on the most.
Those mission metrics include: 1) reporting for, and not only about, people dealing with problems in our city, 2) amplifying diverse community voices, 3) reshaping harmful narratives about Oakland, 4) investigating systems, not just symptoms, 5) making local government more accessible, 6) preserving Oakland histories and legacies, and 7 )partnering with others serving information needs in Oakland.
In addition, advisors met twice over Zoom with the entire Oaklandside news team, for in-depth group discussions and small breakout sessions, to dig deeper into what’s working and what could be improved about our reporting and the overall presentation of our content.
With lessons from a successful pilot to draw on, our newsroom is currently planning to scale up the program and make it a part of our work, ongoing.
We know that the Mission Metrics program and our Community Advisory group is having an impact because their feedback—from practical advice on how helpful it is for us to thread links and highlight relevant resources in our stories, to bigger needs like how we can regularly weave more Oakland history into our reporting to contextualize current events—is influencing our decisions as editors and reporters.
When the pilot ended, we surveyed our news staff about their takeaways, and these are just a few of the ways they said their work will be improved as a result of the program:
"I'm going to double down on my commitment to write about Oakland's history, and to source more freelance work that delves into the history of the city."
"I'll think more about how to include calls to action in my stories. Advisors often mentioned that they always wanted to know more about how to get involved after reading our stories."
"I appreciated all the reminders that people want to be able to USE the information in articles to help their communities and improve their lives, so I plan to include more resource lists, contact info for elected officials and organizations we mention, and coverage of how people can get involved with the issues we write about."
"Advisor feedback reinforced my belief that in our second year we would be well served to begin experimenting with different types of story formats — specifically video, and possibly audio/podcasting — to reach younger audiences."
Undertaking a community feedback project of this depth, especially in a relatively small newsroom where editorial staff is already overtaxed, requires dedicated personnel to oversee and provide coordination. We were extremely fortunate to find a partner in the San Francisco Foundation, which provided financial support allowing us to onboard a dedicated community engagement specialist to work with our editorial leadership and help drive the process.