2017 was an exciting year for the Listening Post Collective. In June, working with our parent organization Internews, we launched our Listening Post Playbook, a manual to better connect communities and news, and our new website, meant to offer examples and resources to media outlets and community organizations. Since then have mentored and worked closely with over 20 different communities, news outlets and universities who have used and adapted our playbook to their specific situations across the country.
From addressing critical gaps in Spanish language information, to reaching mothers who live in a community where child mortality rates are high, to making sure that the experiences and concerns of refugees are included in local content, our partners have all made the important effort to listen first.
Below are some of the highlights from last year.
Website and Playbook Launch
Our website shares methodologies and tools meant to support anyone interested in experimenting with engaged journalism in their community. In a little over six months, we’ve had more than 2,000 people use the Listening Post Collective website, from 100 countries and all 50 states! That’s an average 75 users a week. You can read more about our launch here:
- Listening Post has expanded to 7 cities. Here’s a free guide to bring it to yours, Poynter
- The Listening Post Collective aims to help newsrooms have more meaningful conversations with their communities, Journalism.UK
- How the Listening Post Collective is Helping Journalists Engage With Communities, Mediashift
We are also sending out a bi-weekly newsletter highlighting our work and the great engaged journalism projects that other people are doing around the world.
Sharing With Our Community
Sharing our playbook and getting it into the hands of new partners was a large focus of this past year. We were lucky enough to do that at 8 conferences in 2017 including: Allied Media Conference, Solutions Journalism Summit, People Powered Publishing Conference, Elevate Engagement, Tow Center for Digital Journalism Workshop on News, Polarization, and Public Spheres in Kentucky, Feedback Labs Summit, USC Center for Health Journalism, and Solutions Journalism Engagement Workshops.
Three Awesome Assessments
Our team had the opportunity to conduct three in-depth information ecosystem assessments in Puerto Rico, Omaha, Nebraska and Baltimore, Maryland, all with the goal of understanding local trust, information access, media landscapes and information needs so as to inform the design of community driven news and information projects.
Puerto Rico: In the wake of Hurricane Maria, we spent October collaborating with our parent organization Internews and our colleague Justin Auciello (founder of Jersey Shore Hurricane News) who lives in San Juan on an information ecosystem assessment with residents in Puerto Rico. Our goal was to document the information access issues, especially for rural communities on the island, and identify specific information needs. The assessment included interviews with residents, media, nonprofits, government officials, and humanitarian organizations. Our assessment was the basis for an ensuing “information as aid,” project that has been sharing essential recovery information with residents island-wide. You can read the full report here: Getting Connected: An Assessment of Information Needs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
North Omaha, Nebraska: During the summer of 2017 Internews’ Listening Post Collective, with support from the Omaha based Weitz Family Foundation, conducted an Information Ecosystem Assessment in North Omaha, Nebraska. Listening Post staff met with media workers, community leaders and residents about how information is created and shared in the area, how local media portrays the neighborhood, and the information needs of North Omaha residents. The goal of the North Omaha information ecosystem assessment was to answer four main questions: Are people in North Omaha getting a steady flow of news and information that’s relevant to their community? Are people, institutions, and issues in North Omaha being covered in a holistic, in-depth way by local media? What are the different ways people in North Omaha get and share information on a regular basis? What are the topics and issues that people in North Omaha would most like to contribute to and hear more about? Our report looks at some successful approaches to sharing information in North Omaha, and proposes ideas on some online and offline information sharing strategies being tried in other parts of the United States and the rest of the world. We will soon be announcing our local partner run project in North Omaha which will support a richer and more useful flow of information and conversation through the community, so that residents can get the news they need, and also have their voices heard more frequently.
Baltimore, Maryland: In the winter of 2017, we conducted an information ecosystem assessment in Baltimore’s Barclay neighborhood. We selected Barclay because of its active community groups; the fact that it’s experiencing housing and infrastructure development; its central location; and city services located in Barclay that bring people from all over Baltimore into the neighborhood. Through surveys and local focus groups, our research sought to answer two questions: (1) Are Barclay residents getting the information that they need through the local media and information sources they have access to? (2) Do Barclay residents have the opportunity to make their voices heard and to shape the information and conversations in and about their community? We found the information ecosystem in Barclay is dependent on communities and social circles and built on trust, relationships, and sharing information that enables people to make day-to-day decisions. There are weaker flows of useful information between communities and mainstream media outlets, and distrust of mainstream media. News outlets wanting to engage communities lack proven processes and resources to do so. We are now meeting with potential community partners to see how best to move forward with our findings.
2017 Partner Projects
Our core partners are organizations or initiatives that receive consistent mentorship and support from the Listening Post Collective. All of these projects started with an information ecosystem assessment which informs the local project design. Here’s our 2017 partner list:
- New Orleans, LA: The Listening Post New Orleans, in partnership with WWNO, WTUL, and WBOK, curates a monthly news conversation with over 2,000 participants across the city. Over time they have developed a deep trust in several communities and this has offered opportunities to collaborate with other media outlets looking to connect with certain communities in authentic ways. One such partnership this past year was with The Trace, a national media outlet that focuses on the topic of guns in America. Every year, an estimated 80,000 people survive a gunshot wound nationally. Chronic pain, extreme health care costs, and quality of care are major issues that these survivors face, though their stories are rarely covered. Finding survivors and telling their stories can prove difficult and needs to be done with care. In response to this, The Listening Post New Orleans partnered with The Trace and through outreach via community events, listening post recording stations around New Orleans, and text messaging, the New Orleans team collected voices of local gunshot survivors. The Trace published in depth features from the collaboration, and is working with the LPNola team to circulate a community survey.
- Jersey Shore, NJ: Last year, our longtime Listening Post partner, Jersey Shore Hurricane News has hosted Facebook Live sessions with the Mayors of Brick County and Lakewood County and directed questions and experiences that local participants submitted through their Listening Post Project. The videos had over 15,000 views, and topics ranged from Sandy recovery, to mental health, housing rights, permit fees, and other local issues. The JSHN Listening Post continues to experiment with offline engagement strategies and last fall they asked residents to share reflections from the 5th Anniversary of Sandy. Check out the responses that were gathered through Instagram and a Listening Post at the Red Bank Public Library. People shared memories of extended power outage, kayaking down the street, and fires from downed power lines.
- Oakland, CA: El Tímpano, a community news project that serves the Latino community in Oakland, was our first Listening Post Collective grantee. El Tímpano was founded by Madeleine Bair and our small grant will fund the launch of the project including an information ecosystem assessment with the community which will allow Madeleine to co-design the project with community members. She’s partnering with a community groups and local church leaders to facilitate small group workshops over the next two months centering around the information needs of Latino immigrants in the Bay Area.
2017 Listening Post Playbook Users
Our Listening Post Playbook is free and available to anyone. This past year we also set aside time to call and mentor anyone who asked for additional support, including co-designing local community projects, and connecting local partners to one another for inspiration. Below are some of our collaboration highlights.
- Listening to Create Useful Reporting: Last summer, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting set up a Listening Post table at a local farmers market in Urbana, Illinois. The goal was to engage with their community by being accessible to their community. Anna Casey reflected on her learning stating, “one participant expressed his frustration with how agriculture stories are reported. Although he’s a regular public radio listener, he tunes out stories on this topic. It’s not because he’s uninterested, but it’s because he can’t keep up with all the “ag” acronyms reporters use that the average person might not be familiar with. While that might not be an exclusive scoop, it’s valuable information that we wouldn’t have received if we hadn’t made the effort to listen. That frustrated public radio listener’s input, along with all the other input we received the past two weekends, is going to help us report on issues that affect Illinoisans in a way that’s useful to them.”
- Rising Tides in Boston: Last summer, WBUR produced a series of stories covering climate change in Massachusetts. They were eager to examine the effects it was having on people’s lives so they deployed a listening post recording device in East Boston to find residents interested in sharing their story. What they found were residents who shared the challenges they’re facing financially because of rising tides and rising insurance costs. You can read more here.
- Baby Shower in Richland Ohio The Richland Source spent a year reporting on infant mortality as part of their Healing Hope project. The reporting culminated in a community baby shower hosted in the Richland Source newsroom. 500 people, 200 of them mothers, showed up to the event where they could get important information on infant and parental health and mingle with other parents and community organizations. The Listening Post Collective worked with the Richland Source to develop engagement strategies, craft questions, and construct a Listening Post that was set up at the baby shower. Over 100 mothers left responses with the Listening Post throughout the event. You can watch their Faces of Motherhood: A Listening Post Project video here.
The following outlets have also reached out to the Listening Post Collective to talk about engaged news strategies and some have received mentoring throughout the year:
- Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis Star Tribune
- Illinois: Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
- Mansfield, Ohio: The Richland Source
- Boston, MA: WBUR
- Stonington, ME: The First Coast
- Anchorage, AK: Alaska Public Media
- Sweden: Listening Post Norrköping
- Tampa, LA: Tampa Public Radio
- Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Public Radio
- Clovis, CA: Valley Public Radio
- San Francisco, CA: KALW
- West Virginia: 100 Days in Appalachia
- Philadelphia, PA: The Reentry Project, WHYY
- Los Angeles, CA: Fresno Bee, LA Times, Wilmington Wire
- Minnesota Public Radio
Universities: We’ve been thrilled by the number of professors and universities using our playbook in 2017 to enhance their courses. These schools include:
- CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, New York, NY
- University of Oregon, School of Journalism and Communication, Portland, OR
- California State University, Northridge, Journalism Department, Northridge, CA
- USC Annenberg School of Journalism, Center for Health Journalism, Los Angeles, CA
- Quinnipiac University, School of Communications, Hamden, CT
- Temple University, Klein College of Media and Communication, Philadelphia, PA
We’re looking forward to 2018 — here’s what’s in store!
- LPC Memberships: This year we will be formalizing our support for outlets and individuals using our playbook by launching a Listening Post Collective Membership. Members who sign up and agree to the LPC guiding principles will receive consistent mentorship by the Listening Post Collective team, access to apply for small grants, and networking opportunities with other members. Membership is free — look for details in a few short weeks.
- Micro Grants: We’re looking forward to engaging with even more partners this year, through a new small grants program at LPC. We’ll be releasing a request for proposals for micro grants later this year, to enhance community news projects using our playbook.
- LPC Advisory Group: This year we will be convening a small LPC Advisory Group to bring together people thinking deeply about more inclusive journalism, and how to make it sustainable. We will announce our first Advisory Group members later this winter.
Thank you to new donors for the LPC
We would like to extend a huge thank you to our new donors of 2017, the News Integrity Initiative (NII) at CUNY, the Rose Gold Fund, and the Weitz Family Foundation in Omaha, Nebraska. Support from NII has allowed us to provide mentorship and small grants to our partners around the country, the Rose Gold Fund allowed us to invest in our playbook, and funding from the Weitz Family Foundation supported the local information ecosystem assessment in Omaha and will provide funding for a local organization to launch their own community news project in 2018.
And a huge thank you to all of you who have collaborated with us, given us feedback, used our resources, and inspired us throughout the year! We’re looking forward to seeing where this new year takes us.
(Banner photo: Claudia Lopez showing how to use the Listening Post recording device located at a library in New Orleans. Photo by Emma T. Scott.)