In a year fraught with extraordinary challenges, KMUW’s Digital Democracy on Tap moves with agility and purpose to address only the most timely subjects with the goal of helping people better understand their community. The immediacy and applicability of panel topics is a hallmark of this evolved event series, and KMUW has responded to increased audience need by hosting 10 virtual events in 23 weeks of social distancing.
KMUW began Engage ICT: Democracy on Tap in 2016 to equip citizens with the tools they’d need to make informed decisions come election season, and Democracy on Tap has continued to grow ever since. A project that has become well-known in the Wichita community and developed partnerships with NPR’s 1A program as part of the Across America project, Democracy on Tap features a panel of experts and a moderated discussion of relevant events and issues that are meaningful to our democracy. Topics of these monthly events included climate change, effective ways to reach your representatives, Medicaid expansion, a mayoral debate and much more.
Democracy on Tap was gearing up for another year of essential conversations leading up to the 2020 election when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., forcing KMUW to make tough decisions regarding the future of Democracy on Tap. In response, KMUW developed a new formula for Democracy on Tap, in which conversations with panelists take place via Zoom and are streamed live via Facebook Live as well as at engageict.org. To KMUW’s surprise, this new digital-only format has greatly increased the events’ reach and the amount of community engagement, as viewers participate in the discussion using the comments section on Facebook, or they can email their questions if they opt to not use social media.
In addition to the structural change of Democracy on Tap, our 2020 conversations have been largely COVID-19 focused, as panelists have showed viewers how to grow their own victory garden, shared tips for homeschooling and passed on knowledge about identifying misinformation about COVID-19 during this time in which social media influences what many deem factual. Discussions of racial injustice, policing and election topics have also given a sense of immediacy to the events.