The Issues & Ale live events give the station an opportunity to support local businesses and venues while gaining face-time with listeners and potential listeners alike away from our offices or news events. The series has allowed us to build greater awareness of our programming and station across our coverage area.
These events offer greater insight into what our listeners care about and the aspects of these topics that are most important, concerning, or confusing to them, which can help guide programming efforts.
From a shortage of child care resources in the state to concerns about PFAS contamination, topics span a variety of current issues important to Michiganders. Our attendees are able to voice their concerns and ask questions in an intimate, relaxed environment. Additionally, these events give our digital community a chance to hear about how these issues impact people just like them.
Community-building discussions are not simply limited to politics and problems, however. Issues & Ale provides a venue for ongoing civic learning of all kinds. Events can include visits from other organizations. For example, one guest from the BBC News Hour in London focused on international news topics and world news reporting.
The series has proven to be a great way to bring people together in civil discourse on important issues that affect us all. These events are free and open to the public.
While we’ve benefited in many ways from this initiative, there have been some important lessons learned throughout the planning and execution of the series. What has stood out is the need to ensure buy-in from the editorial team on the topics we’re discussing, because ultimately these are and should be a reflection of our programming.
Often, there are challenges in coming up with engaging topics that the editorial team will get behind, and doing so in a timely way that allows for live event preparation. It’s helped our organizational communications at Michigan Radio because it forces dialogue with the programming and other departments.
Devoting more time to research and network more broadly to find panel experts would be an improvement to be able to recruit more diverse speakers who can be representative and as close to each community and issue as possible.