In April of 2017, Richland Source came up with the idea to host a community baby shower as a way to engage our community on the topic of infant mortality, which we had spent months doing solutions reporting on.
Over the next five months, we planned an event that would both pamper mothers and make them feel celebrated and also provide information on the resources available in the community to educate them on how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, and places they could find support, if needed.
We hired an event planner to decorate our office at Richland Source to make the space feel special, and brought in around 20 community organizations to set up information booths about local resources. We also had a room where parents could complete an online course to receive a free baby box with tools to help prevent sleep-related deaths, and set up a listening post to ask mothers about the rewards and challenges of parenthood. Then, we created a multimedia project based on their responses.
When the mothers/parents arrived, they received a punch card they were required to fill with 10 punches in order to receive a free gift bag filled with donated baby items from the community, plus items purchased from our local Target with $7,000 that was raised by Richland Source after soliciting donations from local businesses. We also used that funding to purchase larger door prizes that were raffled off throughout the event.
The goal was for mothers to engage with their community resources and educational materials in order to earn the free goodies. We developed that goal through our reporting on infant mortality, which revealed that the biggest obstacle to a healthy pregnancy and baby is a lack of education and awareness about local resources.
The baby shower was held on Sept. 9, 2017 and attracted more than 500 attendees. It was a success because of the collaboration between Richland Source’s editorial and sales departments, as well as a huge amount of support from the community. The event was barely over before we started getting questions about when the next community baby shower would be held.
The community baby shower put Richland Source on the map in terms of both solutions journalism and community engagement events. Numerous publications have since written about the event in hopes of helping other newsrooms replicate a community engagement strategy.
Read Current’s story about the baby shower.