What is your top priority when it comes to political coverage? For a majority of attendees to our recent Community Insights webinar, the number one priority was covering what their electorate – their community – needed to make the decision.
“The public should inform what we cover,” Michael Caputo, APM, underscored during the webinar. “We have to embrace the notion that we cover issues important to the electorate. And, we should take an active role in explaining how the issues we broadcast matter to them.”
But how do you discover the issues that matter and bring those insights into your journalism? That’s where engaging the community can help. Here are few tips.
Ask people affected by the issue.
Caputo shared an example from Colorado Public Radio, which wanted to cover economic issues related to the election. So, the station reached out to small business owners.
“We specifically wanted to hear from that group because they are the ones so many of the policies and ideas are aimed at. We wanted to hear firsthand what works and what doesn’t,” Lee Hill, a CPR public insight network reporter, said on the project.
Using Public Insight Network surveys and email messages, CPR asked business owners about their experience. In return, they received rich answers they later based programming on.
Engage online around tough issues.
Minnesota Public Radio held online debates on issues such as same-sex marriage and gun control. The issues were controversial but the station framed the debate in a civic, civil way. They asked the main debaters to be respectful as they presented their views, and while they public was invited to comment, they were held to the same standard.
Create a public square.
“A public square is a place for learning,” said Caputo. “Learning from the news provider to the news user, and from the news user to the news provider.”
Alaska Public Media created this quite literally with Town Square 49, a hyper-local website and online forum highlighting community organizations and individuals living in Alaska. But there are other ways to create a space for learning. Your engagement may take the shape of a live community conversation or an online conversation.
Whatever you do, look to create a place where people can be heard, and use these insights to create a richer connection with the people you serve.
Stay tuned for the second post in this series next week. We’ll share a specific example of how KOSU engaged Oklahomans in state issues by pairing beer and political discourse.