Thanks for engaging us

June 26, 2013 by Jess Main under Community Engagement news

Twelve years ago, with CPB funding and a vision for a transformed media landscape, the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME), then known as the National Center for Outreach, set out to lead public media’s evolution toward community engagement as a strategic imperative for better serving communities and increasing station relevance and financial sustainability.

Today, with great appreciation for how public media has embraced change, and pride in our collective success, we recognize that stations have transformed their work. With that work complete, and as NCME’s CPB funding draws to a close on June 30, we celebrate that the public media community has developed a shared understanding of engagement and a commitment to engaging communities as a critical component of their local service and financial success.

Nearly every public media station and national organization has collaborated with NCME to infuse engagement thinking into public media’s work.  More than 350 organizations and thousands of public media professionals have reoriented toward their communities and embraced their role as community conveners and collaborators.

Through it all, we engaged you in the same ways you engaged with your communities. You got outside the office and listened carefully to community needs.  You built relationships, understood where you could add value and deepened your ties to your community. You shifted your thinking about the role of a station in a changing world, and collaborated with others to take on local challenges.  You led the evolution of public media and our relationship with the communities we serve.

Now, the work of community engagement enters a new phase – one defined by the ongoing need to demonstrate relevance and impact arising from a station’s engagement with community leaders, organizations and various demographic groups to address local concerns. Most recently, this work has begun with stations involved in the American Graduate initiative.

In the coming months, CPB will be working to advance community engagement further by examining best practices of community impact and how the system can replicate and scale those efforts further. We are incredibly grateful to CPB for their commitment and support in helping stations embrace transformational change. We are equally grateful to you for your enthusiasm, creativity and energy in embracing community engagement as a cornerstone of how you serve your communities. To support your efforts, the NCME website will remain available as your repository of the best thinking, tools and tips for cultivating the culture and behaviors for engaging your community. Though we will no longer update the site, we hope you’ll continue to use its wealth of resources.

Thank you for engaging with us over the last twelve years.  Thank you for inviting us into your organizations and into your work to help transform and strengthen your public service. Thank you for sharing your stories of success with your colleagues at stations across the country.  And thank you for your extraordinary service to your communities and our nation.  Together, we’ve reimagined the role of a public station and embraced new ways for stations to work in communities.  That is a great start toward strengthening stations and the communities they serve for generations to come.


The NCME Team

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Saying goodbye to an NCME colleague — Ann Alquist

April 30, 2013 by Amir Zaman under NCME staff, Public Radio

by Charles Meyer, Executive Director, NCME


When a colleague leaves to pursue a new opportunity, it is a bittersweet occasion.  Sweet, because we cheer for the colleague and her future.  And bitter because we’ll miss the colleague’s valued insight.

Ann Alquist, Director of Radio Engagement, leaves NCME today to pursue new opportunities at Alaska Public Media. It is a great opportunity for Ann, and she is excited about contributing to another great organization.  We are delighted for her.  At the same time, we’ll miss her genuine love of public radio, and the deep knowledge and passion she brought to her work.

Over the last few years, Ann has been an instrumental part of NCME’s success helping public radio embrace the culture and habits for engaging communities effectively. She has tirelessly advised scores of stations across the country, helping them redefine staff roles and how they work inside and outside the station.  She constantly championed station work and progress, and fiercely advocated for practical ideas and tools that would help real people at real stations accomplish something meaningful today.

Along the way, Ann has been a dependable colleague with a sharp and wry sense of humor that we will miss. Ann is a great asset to public media and we look forward to seeing her contributions at Alaska Public Media.

Ann — Thank you for the knowledge, insights, and inspiration you brought to NCME, and to public media. We wish you the best in all you do. — The NCME Team

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Lay a Strong Foundation: Lessons from WYSO’s Localore Project, Reinvention Stories

By AIR Media Strategist Jessica Clark



While Dayton, Ohio is home to award-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, over the past year they’ve traversed some unfamiliar territory. For one of the 10 public media transformation projects that comprise AIR’s national Localore production, the pair worked with Dayton-based WYSO to develop a first-of-its-kind interactive documentary about how locals are reimagining themselves and their community: Reinvention Stories.




Developed in collaboration with interactive storytelling team Zeega, the site has rolled out over the course of the spring, revealing stories of eight Dayton residents in three parts: who they were before the bottom fell out of the city’s economy, what happened next, and how they are reinventing themselves.

Untitled3Each act offers interactive features, inviting audience members to explore further and contribute their own reflections on the city’s prospects. In addition, WYSO is producing a series of paired stories—audio and video on the same subjects—profiling other residents who have taken a leap to change their lives.

WYSO General Manager, Neenah Ellis, is a Peabody-winning reporter who has worked in public radio for more than three decades. In the following interview, she describes what it was like to collaborate on this cutting-edge multimedia production, and how the station engaged community members in documenting their own transformations.

Q: The final act of the interactive documentary launched a few weeks ago. What kind of response are you anticipating?



Ellis: The response overall has been great. The multimedia portion has been a huge experiment for all of us—we had no way of knowing what would happen because we’d never done it before. Parts I and II have been extremely well received, and we’ve gotten a lot of press. We think it’ll stay the same for part III, which means that we’ll be able to sustain high-volume interest for 6 months.

Act III also has a new interactive capability: a beautiful map of the Dayton area, with all of the neighborhoods and the people who have been interviewed represented by a dot. Users can also upload photos and stories, and become part of the documentary.


This interactive piece is what makes the project unique, and what will give it a long life. It helps us imagine the project in the future, find new people to interview, anticipate trends—for WYSO it has a million uses, so we’re really excited about that. It’s been hard…but I think it’s well worth it.

Q: How do you anticipate extending the project?

Ellis: Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert got funding from the MacArthur Foundation, so we’re planning a second year now. We’ll pull together another team as we did with the first one, and analyze what worked and what didn’t so that when we roll it out again it will be more streamlined.

The stories from year two will probably launch in January 2014, and WYSO is raising money for a third year. Also right now, we’re still airing the paired radio/video stories—Wednesdays during Morning Edition at 6:30 and 8:30.

We’re working right now on pieces for early May, and trying to decide on how many to do overall. Then, will re-run them, so we’ll get a full year’s worth of programming

Q: Do you feel as though this documentary is bringing new kinds of listeners to the station?

Ellis: Not only did it get my staff physically out into neighborhoods, but once they get there, their consciousness is different. This summer we’ll pick new neighborhoods, so it will extend us out even further. Anecdotally, we’ve gotten a lot of good responses from listeners, but we are still trying to match new members up with the neighborhoods.

As the stories air on the radio, we also see a lot of Facebook and email traffic, so we know that people are sending it out to their friends. So, there’s that great social media expansion of awareness as well.

Debbie Bradley from Reinvention on Vimeo.

One woman named Debbie Bradley, a former General Motors worker, started a discussion [online] among the GM workers about whether many of them have been able to reinvent themselves. She’s a real success story…became a nurse, and fulfilled her dream. We told her story and it kindled a conversation.

Q: What have you learned about the relationship between film production and radio production?

Ellis: The short films are different from the radio pieces, in some cases quite dramatically. The radio stories tend to go deep very fast, and the video stories tend to go wider. You get a different feeling about a person’s life with family photos, for example, while the radio pieces are deeper and more contemplative.

We’re hoping to bring all of the radio and film producers together and ask them what they’ve learned and share it.

Q: What lessons would you share with other stations?

Ellis: I do believe strongly that this project has really increased our capacity as a pretty small station to innovate…but it’s not a given.

You really have to have a vision, to have done the foundational work. We invested in a webmaster, have a high-functioning web platform, began community media training a couple of years before we began Reinvention Stories, had good media contacts—so the project allowed us to build on all that previous work.

We also leveraged Reinvention Stories to create a new team of volunteer media makers in combination with our paid staff, building on the Community Voices program. Now, in its third year, it has a cumulative effect, because people keep coming back. It encompasses a lot of projects, including Reinvention Stories—if we didn’t have that umbrella, we’d have a harder time perpetuating it.

But, as a small station, there are trade-offs. In a bigger station, there’s a bigger cushion, more people. There weren’t as many news stories this year because reporters were out walking out streets. So we had to decide that it was worth it.

I’m just so proud and happy that CPB and all of the other funders stepped up and recognized the potential for independent producers working in public stations. I hope the other nine Localore stations had as good an experience as we did, and that other stations open their doors to local makers, and realize that they’re a great resource.

Curious to learn how the other Localore stations built new storytelling strategies to engage communities? Read previous posts in this NCME series and visit to experience them for yourselves.

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Great Content, Flexible Delivery:
Lessons from a startup news site

Guest post from Don Henry, Director of Digital Media at WHYY.

Because I’m old, I’ve seen the disintegration of a variety of media models. Oh, how I long for the days of the illuminated manuscript!

Well, my professional memory might not go back quite that far, but I certainly can remember being the guy with the freshest buzzwords at the table, grumbling after every meeting about how some craggy old newspaper editor “just didn’t get it.”

These days, I’ve stopped even tracking the buzzwords, and I don’t want to know where the twenty-somethings put me on the cragginess spectrum.

That’s probably why, when we sat down to build NewsWorks three years ago, I started where I’d started so many times in the past: At the home page.

NewsWorks, a sub-brand of Philadelphia’s public radio station WHYY, had set out to provide an alternative source of news and engagement. By partnering with a number of reputable independent local journalism operations, we created a mix of content generated by WHYY radio reporters, NewsWorks bloggers, our partners and freelancers.

Early in 2010, the NewsWorks development team locked itself in a conference room and started drawing a tidy site map, with the home page as the hub.


image credit: Tony Auth

Three years later, we’re wondering how much longer we will even have a home page. As we explained in a recent webinar, so much of our traffic enters through the side door, it’s now clear we spent way too much time worrying about our home page. (See the prezi for specifics.)

We now realize that as a new service, with no established traffic against our front door, we have tremendous flexibility with how we engineer both our site and its content. For today’s Internet, having a largely deserted home page is an opportunity, not a curse.

As we look toward NewsWorks 2.0, which will launch in waves between now and fall, we have refocused our energy in these ways:

  1. We concentrate on the user experience at the content-item level. We want each piece of content to present its riches clearly, with as little fuss as possible. We are re-engineering our user experience to put our content as far forward as we possibly can. We haven’t given up on the idea of making the site “sticky” (that’s a buzzword that’s endured), but we’ve realized that, if we’re not careful, we risk annoying a whole lot of our users just to get a tiny percentage of them to hang around. If they bounce, they bounce. If they’ve had a great reading (viewing/listening) experience while they’re here, we figure they are more likely to come back.
  2. Mobile consumption is our first concern, both for design and content generation.
  3. Our content is our brand. Yes, we want people to eventually have a warm feeling when they see the little orange bubble that is NewsWorks’ avatar.  But we know reaching that goal means stressing content and the personalities who produce that content. For instance, we don’t worry that building the social footprint of our urban life correspondent, Lizz Fiedler, will detract from our overall brand. Our early data indicate this strategy is paying off.
  4. Our only constant is change. Gone are the days you build a huge black-box product, launch it, start measuring and let it run for a year or so to see if you’ve got a hit. It’s certainly not unique to us, but we’ve drunk the agile web development Koolaid. We work in manageable “sprints” (usually no more than 8 to 12 weeks), and we have changed our middle name to “iterate.” We now conceive, launch and (sometimes) scrub projects in less time than it once took to draft a content plan. (Of course, some products are a success and we keep them around!)
  5. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. Although we have some technical and staffing constraints, we have committed ourselves to not doing anything for which goals and key performance indicators can’t be defined. Analytics are the key here. This is especially important when you’re spending marketing money promoting content. (See the full prezi for more detail.)

As a final note, it’s important to remember that, as journalists and online producers, we cannot make people do anything. They are going to do what they are going to do. They are going to engage with content they care about, probably based on what their friends are doing on social media. The first few years of NewsWorks has convinced us that we need to focus our efforts on creating solid, interesting journalism and then become expert at saying: “Hey, how about this? No? Okay, how about this?”

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The Kitchen Sisters Reveal the Power of Collaborative Production Via Localore’s The Making Of…

By AIR Media Strategist Jessica Clark

Kitchen Sisters hats“Some people are hat people,” Olivia Rose Griffin told Lauren Benichou, who reported on her 100-year-old hat shop for Localore project The Making Of…

It’s because they’ve been doing it a long time. And then there are some people who are like ‘oh, I don’t look good in any hat.’ They just have to practice. They’ve just got to throw hats on and get comfortable.”

For many public stations, collaborative production might feel similarly awkward. But award-winning producing duo Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva—known jointly as The Kitchen Sisters—have honed the practice to a fine craft. Over the past year, they’ve headed up The Making Of… at Bay area station KQED, mastering a series of increasingly ambitious collaborations—with the public, storytelling innovators, and local organizations. Their work offers models for stations seeking to update their style.

Cooperation at the Core

KitchenSisters nikki & davia“So much of the impulse to collaborate with an array of people and organizations comes from the fact that Nikki and I work collaboratively,” says Nelson.

Together, they’ve produced more than 300 stories for public broadcast, including a string of award-winning NPR series: Hidden Kitchens, Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project and The Hidden World of Girls. Nelson attributes their approach to previous work in team-focused environments— Silva’s in museums with a strong community focus and her own in filmmaking, where she says working with crews is “like being with an orchestra and bringing everyone to the highest level of their craft.”

Collaboration is also intrinsic to the design of AIR’s distributed Localore production, a 10-station public media innovation initiative with primary funding from CPB. In a unique three-way arrangement, each project is jointly produced by the lead producer, a public station, and AIR. Localore producers lead multidisciplinary teams that include designers, developers, reporters and station staff. In addition, AIR has encouraged these teams to work in tandem with audience members to document their lives and communities, in the process expanding the station’s reach into untapped corners.

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.11.44 AMFor the Kitchen Sisters, that meant reframing audience members as fellow makers, and inviting them to share their stories online and via a call-in line. Over the last several months, they have gathered more than 200 such stories. From this pool, they produce broadcasts, videos, and multimedia explorations on topics including the making of bespoke prosthetics, a jar of jam, data sculptures, a senior dog rescue service and others—some quite abstract and profound.



Tapping Fellow Innovators

To help explore Bay area creativity in all of its variegated glory, they’ve also worked with others who are forging new storytelling forms.

SoundCloud event

In January, the Kitchen Sisters co-produced a packed event at the offices of social audio platform SoundCloud to launch The Making Of…Studio with Zeega and KQED. An interactive storytelling team led by Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler and James Burns, Zeega has co-produced several of the Localore projects. They’re building an open platform that allows to users help “remake the internet” by creating immersive productions drawn from audio, video and images in the cloud. The Making Of… site invites participants to make their own “strange, beautiful experience,” and share it with others in the community.

In another experiment, the Kitchen Sisters partnered with reporter Charla Bear, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and digital storytelling platform Cowbird to tell the story of Ignacio Gonzales. Better known as “Notch,” he builds hot rods in his shop, Top Notch Kustoms, plus tiki bars on the side. He explains that his craft is “all about the stance and the style.”

Joining Forces With Cultural Hubs

Along the way, the Kitchen Sisters have shared The Making Of… stories at a series of events—including a feature slot in a sold-out Pop-Up Magazine live event last April, and a stint as hosts at the Third Coast Competition awards.

But all of this has just been been a warmup for what looks to be their biggest collaboration yet: a two-day celebration to mark the closing of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a three-year expansion process. On May 30-31, The Making Of…@ SFMOMA will attract an estimated 12,000 people a day to a pop-up-style event featuring local makers of all stripes.

Magical Cinema Snowglobe from JD Beltran on Vimeo.

Artists who have been featured in the series will be on hand to demo their inventions, such as Evan Holm, whose Submerged Turntable simultaneously celebrates human culture and mourns its eventual loss, or JD Beltran and Scott Minneman, whose Cinema Snowglobe marries digital video technology with nostalgic tourist tchotchkes. SFMOMA architects and designers will also reveal the story of The Making Of…a Museum.

A smorgasbord of locally produced delicacies will be available—from underground Korean restaurant FuseBOX, karaoke ice cream truck TreatBot, cheesemakers Cowgirl Creamery, heirloom jam-maker The Still-Room, and others—and creators will share culinary origin stories. In addition, KQED and the Kitchen Sisters will invite locals to submit videos about what they are making for the chance to demo their productions at the event in a series of hour-long sessions.

Nelson says that co-producing this event with SFMOMA “is like coming full circle,” after many years of making “cinematic audio” that aims to tell stories visually. “We were always gathering 3D materials,” she says—a topic the pair wrote about for Transom. Now, they are able to bring The Making Of… to life in a way that celebrates, as so many of their stories do, “people who are possessed, with a passion, with a mission—people who are building something new.”

Want to learn about how other Localore producers are connecting with publics and community partners in fresh and surprising ways? Catch up on the monthly series featured on the NCME blog, and join us for a webinar on April 10th at 2:00 EST for Go Outside: New Visions For Community Engagement from AIR’s Localore. 

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Radical Collaboration: Engagement inspiration from Santa Cruz

April 2, 2013 by Jess Main under Audience Engagement, Creative Practices, Engagement Trends

Collaborating with your community is key to building an ethos of community engagement at your organization. We take inspiration on best practices for engagement from many sources: this recent post from Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog is a terrific example of what authentic collaboration looks like and how it can be achieved. Simon is the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), and for this post she and her colleagues put together excellent examples, tools and pointers for how to collaborate with community members.

So your organization isn’t a museum? It doesn’t matter. The basic principles are the same. Some great highlights from the MAH team:

  • Collaborate with collaborators: Look for partners who have “A genuine enthusiasm for sharing their skills, building knowledge and developing relationships in the community even if they haven’t done it before.”
  • Transparency rules: “On your website: share your programming goals, solicit collaborations in general and for specific events, provide easily accessible staff contact information, give thanks and acknowledgement to your collaborators….”
  • Value your collaborators: Showing your appreciation for the relationship can come in many forms, and doesn’t have to be monetary. Meaningful gestures during and after the collaboration continue to build the relationship.

Check out the full post here.

For more engagement inspiration from Nina Simon, check out her recent TedxSantaCruz talk on “Opening up the Museum” – including her demonstration of the connection between engagement and sustainability for an organization:

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Presenting in Native American Communities

March 26, 2013 by Jess Main under Audience Engagement, Content, Creative Practices, Television, Webinar

Shirley K. Sneve, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota) in South Dakota, recently presented some tips for stations that want to work with Native American communities around the FRONTLINE film Kind Hearted Woman. The film documents the struggles of Robin Charboneau to raise her two children, further her education, and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child.

We found these guidelines very useful and wanted to share them with a wider audience.

Guest Post from Shirley K. Sneve – Executive Director, Vision Maker Media (formerly NAPT, Native American Public Telecommunications)

1.  Native American or American Indian? What’s the correct answer? There isn’t one, except that Alaskans don’t like to be called American Indians. If possible, use the tribe or band of the individual or group. We use the term Native American in our office.

2.  Engage a local Native American organization to issue the invitation with the station to come to the screening.  Natives are more likely to attend if they know there will be other Natives at the event.

3.  Use the FBI to get the word out (Facebook Indians). “Friend” local Native organizations to help spread the word. Vision Maker Media will be happy to assist you with this.

4.  These are very difficult and personal issues for many Natives. One in three American Indian women has been raped or has experienced an attempted rape, according to the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average. These are the reported cases.

Photo credit: Shirley K. Sneve (Rosebud Sioux Tribe/Sicangu Lakota). Photo: Vision Maker Media

Photo credit: Shirley K. Sneve (Rosebud Sioux Tribe/Sicangu Lakota). Photo: Vision Maker Media

5.  Consider inviting an elder to open the screening with a prayer.  Make an offering of tobacco when you make this request. If possible, ask that the room be blessed by burning sage, cedar and/or sweet grass.

6. Look for partners with likeminded goals and stakeholders. For example, organizations like the National Congress of American Indians have been working hard to get the Violence Against Women Act passed in the House and in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act case at the Supreme Court now.

7.  As shown in the film, there are many obstacles for victims of abuse to find help and healing. Family relationships, legal issues of jurisdiction between federal, state and Tribal courts, issues of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as simply not knowing where to turn create more questions than answers.

8.  For people who are in abusive situations, attending the screening will be a brave act. Having counselors and resource information on hand will make a big difference.

9.  Native communities battle substance abuse, but they also have very high rates of abstinence, so stereotypes may not be true.

10. Vision Maker Media films that explore these issues:

     The Silencea FRONTLINE film

     The Thick Dark Fogdistributed by NETA.

FRONTLINE will broadcast Kind Hearted Woman over two nights on April 1 & 2. If you are interested in obtaining a screener copy for pre- or post-broadcast engagement opportunities please contact ITVS through this request form.

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WSKG’s Keeping Our Schools Safe

March 20, 2013 by Jess Main under Audience Engagement, Education, Stories, Television

Guest Post by Annie Whitman, Education Initiatives Coordinator – WSKG, Binghamton, New York

The variety of our coverage is often what makes us unique—But where school safety is concerned, this variety is what made us realize we’re not so different after all.  The area that WSKG serves is made up of communities ranging from small urban centers to rural farming towns to well-respected university hubs. As a whole, the communities in this entire area take pride in this being a great place to raise a family, not unlike Newtown, Connecticut.

The topics explored in the After Newtown programming have been at the forefront of discussion, especially the issue of school safety. So naturally, many students, parents, and schools, whether home to a campus of 10,000 young adults or a first grade class of 28 children, have a heightened interest and concern.

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.49.54 AM

NCME’s After Newtown engagement resources page

Their main worry: What steps are our schools and universities taking?  WSKG created a local TV special to air in conjunction with PBS’s After Newtown programming.  It was a true interdepartmental collaboration to bring together two panels of local experts to share authentic conversation pertaining to our community.  WSKG’s well-known radio host, Crystal Sarakas, ventured into our TV studio to moderate this special production. The community dialogue featured the voices and views of a university associate dean of community & public affairs, a rural school district superintendent, an inner-city district assistant superintendent, the deputy chief of a university police department, and a retired child and adolescent psychologist.  The result: a well-balanced and insightful discussion that related to the daily lives of all viewers.

WSKG Education will continue to sustain the topics brought up in After Newtown by launching a SAFETY webpage throughout March. It will build off of resources from the diverse NCME collection, including the Not In Our School resource guide and localized information for families facing childhood mental illness.  This SAFETY page will fulfill an additional need to provide resources for other areas of concern to parents, students, and schools (fire safety, natural disaster safety, etc.).  WSKG recognizes public media’s responsibility to engage in thoughtful consideration of how national news and issues of importance are impacting our local communities.

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Six Tips for Strong Partnerships

March 11, 2013 by Jess Main under American Graduate, Audience Engagement, Creative Practices, Education

by Melissa Nowak, NCME Operations Assistant


Participants at WMHT’s Youth Summit.

WMHT in Troy, New York sponsored a Youth Summit in collaboration with Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) at the University at Albany as part of the station’s American Graduate Initiative. Twenty-five students from local high schools attended the two and half hour event, where they discussed reasons for students dropping out of school. WMHT production crew members recorded the conversations with students discussing such intimate topics as teen pregnancy, as well as universal issues like bullying. The station found that strong collaboration with their partner organization was essential to the success of the event.

When asked what advice she had for public media organizations considering an event like the Youth Summit with a partner organization, Katherine Jetter, VP of Education at WMHT offered six tips:

  1. Constant and Consistent Communication: Communication is key to a successful collaboration. Each organization should share its goals for the event, agree on responsibilities and where decision-making will be shared, and check in regularly to make sure each side accomplishing its objectives.
  2. Meet regularly: Coming up with a regular time to meet helps keep things on track, particularly if the organizations operate during different hours – WMHT usually operates during regular business hours, whereas LPP is an after-school/evening program. Scheduling regular face-to-face meetings kept the communication lines open.
  3. Be Flexible: Organizing an event like the Youth Summit requires each partner to break out of their normal operation, and realize that they will have to do things to accommodate the other.
  4. Know your partner’s partners: Knowing with whom your partner is connected in the community is very helpful and can strengthen your relationship. In this case, LPP had an existing relationship with organization that helped bring students to the Youth Summit.
  5. Network: Get other support for the project. The more organizations that are involved, the more successful you are in getting the word out about the event.
  6. Exchange testimonials: Writing letters of support or testimonials strengthens the relationship between organizations. It shows you stand by your partner. Success of the Youth Summit was illustrated through solicited feedback from students, WMHT employees, and LPP personnel, such as in this quote:

“This was an incredible opportunity to collaborate with WMHT. Liberty’s mission to serve youth in our community ties beautifully with WMHT’s goal to give our students voices while gaining a better understanding of the dropout crisis in our communities.” – Sidra A. Chaudhary, Program Director for LPP’s Rising Stars Program for the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany.

Project development

The idea to collaborate with a community partner, and involve students, sprang from coalition meetings regarding the American Graduate Initiative. WMHT was inspired by contribution from students at an earlier town hall meeting, and began working with LPP to provide opportunities for LPP interns to create media segments about important issues students face in school, which were subsequently featured at the Youth Summit to spark student conversation about these issues.

“We wanted the students to reach out to each other, realize that these problems are manageable and preventable while also exposing them to different careers in media,” said Jetter. The ultimate goal of the Youth Summit was to create an event in Albany and share it across the state through LPP, which is a statewide organization. “We want to create something that stimulates its implementation in other places,” said Jetter.

Partners should keep talking and collaborating after the project is complete, she said. “We may not see anything right away after the Youth Summit in terms of whether we were successful, because these projects tend to grow,” says Jetter. Both WMHT and LPP hope to expand from the original coalition to include more organizations. The event format will be presented at regional conferences and will also be presented to other branches of LPP throughout the state of New York. WMHT and LPP have also been brainstorming an internship program, where students can connect and make media to share and connect with other students. “Because that’s the main idea,” says Jetter, “engaging students.”



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WDET Evolves its Engagement

March 11, 2013 by radioanngal under Audience Engagement, Content, Impact, Public Media System, Public Radio

by Ann Alquist, Director of Radio Engagement

My professional heart was born in local news. I know most hungry producers and reporters want to get on the national shows, but I have always loved the process that’s necessary for local news. Drilling into our cities’ and towns’ issues can be the most gratifying work and with a sense of almost immediate impact. Most importantly, it feeds our sense of mission to get our communities – warts and all – reflected on the air.

I see this mindset on steroids at WDET in Detroit. They’ve partnered with local organizations to catch trucks illegally driving through Mexicantown in the southwest part of the city. They’ve convened off-mic conversations that have diversified the station’s news sourcing and audience. Now the station has taken a page from public television’s community engagement playbook: take advantage of an existing national conversation on a controversial topic and leverage a well-known, well-respected national radio program to spark a discussion locally.

This American Life, hosted by the iconic Ira Glass, touches millions of Americans with riveting stories that speak to the universal human condition. Sadly, experiencing gun violence appears to be increasingly a universal human condition – which TAL decided to tackle in two parts with a profile of the effect of gun violence at Harper High School on Chicago’s south side. WDET broke format, airing the episodes in its weekday schedule as well as its regularly scheduled weekend time. The station also interviewed the TAL producer on its flagship public affairs program The Craig Fahle Show to facilitate a local conversation about gun violence and youth in Detroit.

On its face, what WDET did isn’t all that revolutionary. But the station broke some taboos: interrupted regular programming by airing a national show multiple times outside of its time slot. That doesn’t come intuitively to public radio – because we are so fiercely local in our news production! Every hour that goes to a national show could be an hour to cover our communities, to convene critical conversations. But it’s a reminder every once in a while to take advantage of compelling national content that speaks to our communities as well. We’ll always bring our fierce localism to public radio and as WDET has shown us, it’s possible to connect the two to create a meaningful dialogue about tough topics.

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