The Local Live(s) initiative started in 2020 with a question: can we apply the benefits of live storytelling (intimate, empathy-building experiences) to the journalism trust crisis? We ran an experiment to find out. We collaborated with six newsrooms to produce live storytelling events where local journalists shared the behind-the-scenes of their reporting – stories about investigative journeys, power dynamics, ethical quandaries. Despite most of our events being virtual, our experiment was a success. Audiences showed up and walked away with increased media literacy and measurably greater trust in the news. Journalists developed a more profound connection to their communities. And news orgs raised money and gave their stories a second life all while building relationships with underserved members in their community.
Using our learnings, we launched Season 2 of Local Live(s) to scale the impact of our events to more newsrooms and communities. Take, for example, our collaboration with Mississippi Today. We hosted their event in a guitar shop with a lineup that intentionally centered the Black diaspora in Jackson and included 2 local reporters, an editorial cartoonist, a rapper/poet and the education director from the Emmett Till Interpretive Center. Mississippi Today used the event to demonstrate their commitment to representation and righting the historical wrongs of how BIPOC groups have been portrayed in the media. The show sold out. And more than half the audience were people of color. Mary-Margaret White, the CEO of Mississippi Today said, “The event accomplished exactly what I had hoped. It created a space for our readers to have a deeper understanding of what it is like to work in journalism and it also attracted a younger and more diverse audience than past programs.”
Trust is earned. We have seen through partnerships with 25+ newsrooms in 20 cities that when journalists take to the stage with vulnerable, relatable, human stories audiences who normally tune out lean in closer. Local Live(s) breaks the fourth wall and invites communities to speak back to journalists, to ask them questions and to build together. Over 90% of newsrooms said they would partner with Local Live(s) again, we hope Current will join us as we work to make those partnerships a reality.