Day 1 Keynote: Strategies behind national collaborations
3:42PM Jun 20, 2023
Lisa Yanick Litwiller
So next I'd like to welcome Ashley Clark and Lisa Yanick Litwiller from the Center for Public Integrity up to talk about national collaborations. And so with that this floor is yours. Do you see your clicker in the middle? Yeah. Awesome. All right, Ashley and Lisa, take it away. Morning. Can everyone hear me? How's everyone doing? You guys are awake.
I'm so excited and honored to be here with you all today. My name is Ashley Clark. I'm the audience engagement editor at The Center for Public Integrity.
But my boss told me not to do that. So I'm not going to be doing that. But for real, I'm super excited to share about how we collaborate as a national news organization, with collaborative new, with Zara, with local newsrooms, and how we center equity in those collaborations. And so I will toss things over to our director of audience and who I think is really at the heart and spirit of the collaborations that we do at Public Integrity. I think you're at the heart and spirit of what we do with collaborations.
I'm Lisa Yanick Litwiller, I'm the director of audience at the Center for Public Integrity. And Ashley and I have been working together for about two years, imagining what using our superpowers of trust building and putting an equity lens on our collaborations, and including people along
along with our process earlier, instead of after we published could do to bring the information that we're gathering into communities.
I can't get this clicker to work. Maybe I'm pointing in the wrong direction.
Where do we point it? Did you get it? Yeah,
I'll just go ahead and say Next slide. Does that does that work? Okay. And so as Lisa mentioned, we collapse, the main goal of our collaboration is to bring our, the work that we do to the audiences that are impacted by it, and grow our audience. Next slide, please. And next slide.
And so we, when we think about like, where we start, we want to start in the right place. And we we try to keep these like assumptions in the back of our head, or at the front of our minds, actually, is that there's talent in every newsroom, despite resources, that we're expert in something and so are other newsrooms. And we can all learn from one another. We don't like to go in newsrooms and say, Oh, we have the answers to everything. And we know what's happening in your community, we are assuming that we're bringing something to the table, and so are they, and then that we're combining our skills to make a better product. Like I said, the goal is to grow our audience, the goal is to get our news in front of the people who are impacted by it. And so how can we creatively combine our skills with the local newsrooms that we're working with to make that happen? And then I think Lisa does a good job of describing this. But assuming the best intentions have of all journalists in sort of that we're all working from the same place of like, wanting to produce the best work, wanting to make sure we're not doing any harm, making sure that our fact checking processes, similar, our editing processes are similar. And if we start there, we can keep like equity at the center of the collaborations that we do. Next slide, please.
So if you've ever done a collaboration with us, you may have had to endure me asking what is your superpower, we share our superpowers and our collaborations. And we
one of the best benefits for us is that we gain from other people's superpowers. And we really like to center the idea that relationship building and understanding what everyone brings to the table is a hard skill. It's not a soft skill. For us, it's super important that that that is the center of what we're doing in a collaboration. We work really hard. And we're doing it all the time to acknowledge power and privilege, and what that looks like for the people who are collaborating with us and our own power and privilege as a national investigative newsroom that has many years of being able to obtain funding or build connections. So we put that at the at the beginning of our process. We think about our audience as a collaborator in our collaboration, and try to create as many entry points into our work show that we're reaching the different types of audiences. Can you go to the next slide, please? And so we think about who the audience might be for every single project, but we feel like they fall into these three buckets. And I'd love to hear from anyone in this room if you think there are different buckets or this is wrong, but basically we think about the audience that is learning about a topic for the first time, we think about the audience that can take action. And also someone could be in all of these buckets, right. But somebody who has power, either they're a legislator, or they're an advocate, they're going to take action, maybe based on the reporting, and then the audience that is personally impacted. Our goal is to build collaborations that serve all of those buckets of audience. And center, the audience that is most impacted by the topic or the reporting. So centering lived experiences and centering our goal and reaching that audience with the information, he can go to the next slide.
So CPI has, right now, I would say like three different types of collaborations that we do, where we do the reporting, it's ready to be published, and we go to news organizations that can help us amplify our work. And we say, you know, can you republish our work. And then it's like, we have that one to one collaborations. And so we seek out news organizations that are either in communities that are impacted that by the issues that we're reporting on, or whoever, like super like hyper focus on that particular beat that we're working on. And we work with them and the reporting process and the editing process, and, and so on. And a good example of that is our Washington informer project that we did a year ago, where we build a newsletter with a local newspaper in Washington, DC. And then the third way is community collaboration, where our reporters will like have a story idea or be working on a story. And with the help of the audience, team and editors will put together a toolkit for local reporters to use. And so that'll include questions that they can answer tips on how to do the reporting. It'll also include how we looked at the data, how they can look at the data and in their community. And when we'll publish, it has information about like embargo dates, sometimes it includes how we are going to socially promote it, and how they can do the same thing. And so will, at some point in the presentation, Flash, a link. So anyone who's interested can sign up for that collaboration list. And like I said, we often put out different stories that we're working on and say, you know, this is what we're working on, here's how you can work on it to where you are.
So I talked about superpowers, our superpowers as an organization include amazing data, investigative talent, deep investigative chops, in general time, we are lucky enough to be able to spend months or years on one project and have a team of people working on it. And we know that the collaborators and communities probably don't have that luxury. So we like to do work with our time to help people be able to collaborate with us and tell the same story in their community for their community. We know just like the previous speakers, that the community journalists know their community best, we can't tell the local story. And so we know that from the start, and we create these toolkits that Ashley talked about. There's the next slide I think flashes through a little bit of what they might look like, every toolkit is different, or real critical, and key part of our toolkit is that we walk through whatever we're using in our investigation. So if we've created a data set or a way of looking at data, we walk through it. And we share that with our collaboration, 12 weeks in advance of publishing, maybe way far in advance so that people have time and space to do that local reporting. And then we share everything probably like most people, a lot of people in this room. All of our work is available to republish. Sometimes there might be like a little bit of a delay on the availability, but generally when we're collaborating. Our interactives are our arts, our data, our sidebar pieces, all of it is available to everyone in the collaboration. So this is a little bit more about the toolkits. So we have a kickoff for our collaborations. We invite everyone the more the merrier actually talks about the email list that I hope you will sign up for if you're not on it. And we send out blanket calls with information about the projects that we're working on, and invite people to a kickoff call and we walk through the information. The toolkits, like I said we aim for 12 weeks in advance could be even more could be six months in advance if we're able to do it. We share the gist of our story. We share our findings right away. We have a mutual agreement with the people who join what the A kind of the rules of the road are for the collaboration. And we, this toolkit is an evolving, it's an evolving sort of organic beast. We add to it as we're getting more information, as our collaborators come to our office hours that we hold over those 12 weeks, and bring amazing like wins and ideas and paths that they're going on in their communities. We add those to our toolkits, and we make sure that we share them with the whole collaboration, which makes everything stronger, because we obviously do not know everything. And I mean, I hate to say it, if I told the newsroom that they might disagree, but we don't know everything. And we like to learn from everyone's experience, you can go to the next slide.
So this is a project that we worked on last year called on housing undercounted, where it looked at how school districts were supposed to be keeping track of students who were either unhoused or had like housing insecurity. And these students are protected by the McKinney vento act. And so by law, the the schools are supposed to be tracking them and providing them resources that they need an investigation found that many schools are under counting these students. We knew going into this reporting that we would need a news organization that was had a hyper focus on reporting on homelessness. And if you can go to the next slide, that'd be great. So these are the partners we worked on work with, we knew we needed someone who like that was their that was their beat. We knew we needed communities that like could get into schools and talk to teachers, talk to students, and talk to other people who worked in schools, that district. And we also knew we needed a news organization that focused on education. So we, for this particular project, you'll see that it used and you can go back to the slide. For this particular project, you'll see that we used like kind of the three different models that we have for in this one project. So Street Sense Media is a street paper in Washington, DC, they cover homelessness. And not only do they cover homelessness, a lot of the folks who who write for them, or who have, who are featured in their newspaper, have experienced homelessness, or are currently experiencing homelessness. So that was important for us. And then w amu. We had collaborated with them in the past that was a news organ, local news organization that we had already built trust with. And so we thought that bringing them in was important, a different type of format than we do they do radio. And so when Lisa was talking about different entry points into our work, we knew that we didn't want to just have a long investigation, but we wanted to component that people could possibly listen to or short form piece. And then the Seattle Times Project Homeless, if you aren't familiar with their work, I would really recommend checking it out. They just do really amazing work in covering homelessness in the Seattle area and in surrounding areas. And then the Chalkbeat, they were just a republishing partner, and I said just a republishing partner, but that's not what they are. They are an education, nonprofit. And they were really essential in like getting our this story in front of like educators and other people who care about education issues. These were our core partners in this reporting, and then you can go to the next slide. And then we also, after we finished the the initial like core reporting, we did what Lisa was talking about is creating a toolkit for local reporters to then do even further reporting different angles into the story. And so we provided the data we provided questions they could ask, we even in the toolkit included some like experts that they could reach out to, and we had those office hours and then next slide. And then something that was really cool. And it was the first time that I had been able to do it at Public Integrity. But it's always something I wanted to do was we knew going into this that students were at the heart of the issue. And I thought it was important. And I think it's important that if people who have a story to tell should be able to tell their story if they want to. And so I thought that there are so many student journalists out there. And so we actually went to the like National High School Journalism Conference in San Francisco last month, and we presented on the story. And we told students how they could cover it. And we even created resources for them to use. And it didn't have to be the again this we are an investigative newsroom and we a lot of our work is data driven. But we made it clear that it didn't have to be these long data heavy pieces that they did, but it was really impactful for the students to be able to do this reporting in their own communities. And earlier this month, a student actually was able to publish a story about student homeless His and their school district and that, for me, is why I like get excited about this job is that someone who is in it in the thick of it is able to have the resources and the tools and support from us to be able to tell their story and such a hyper focused way. And so that was a major payoff. And so that is that if it's not on our website, it will be on our website, the resources that we have for students available. And that's something that we have been experimenting with. Because we at the conference, I talked to a lot of students, and they said to me, yeah, we're the only like, local paper in our community now that a lot of our like, local papers have been bought up by like, larger media companies. And so if we want to do this reporting, and so if they want to do the reporting, like who the heck are we to stop them and like, not make it easy for them to do? And so yeah, this is just like, like, my baby actually doesn't think that this was able to happen. So it's a full circle moment for me,
I think, to actually like, what's really exciting about it is that it does what we say is one of our core principles and beliefs, which is putting the audience most impacted in the center and reaching them in a way that maybe you and I never could, right? Absolutely. And students are reading the student paper that maybe aren't reading public integrity, or Chalkbeat.
Exactly, exactly. And so what we've learned, I'll throw it over to Lisa, talk a little bit about that.
So we're still learning, like everyone in this room. And there are some things that we're noting and like, trying to find some deeper solutions or work, work towards improving something that we've learned. And I it was interesting to me at the beginning of this, this morning, when I heard the talk about like the business collaborations, something that's come up a lot for us is the idea that funding is on equal, it's a lot easier for us to get funding than for the media organizations serving communities that are marginalized or vulnerable. And, and we're working to be very transparent, and maybe seek solutions for that. We also have learned and this is probably not new in this room. Um, past experiences influence current relationships. And so that goes back to that hard skill for us of building trust. We have to be a listener first, we can come in with our superpowers, but we can't come in knowing everything. Right, or or people do not, maybe they won't want to collaborate. Sometimes it's okay to walk away. That's a good one. Has anyone walked away from a collaboration in here? Yeah. Right. Sometimes that's okay. Things always take longer plan anyway, that's something we're working on. We're trying to add weeks on to our national to local projects, because we know and we are learning every day that community journalists have daily deadlines, and they are busy and they have to triage. So we're trying to add time on to things but have a structure. And a diverse group is always stronger. 100%,
that that can't be emphasized enough. I think, within your newsrooms, it's important, but also is like who you think about as collaborators, like do the newsrooms that you're collaborating, like all do the edits, everyone in their look like you. And I think the student examples, a good example, it's like, you might not think of them as a collaborative, but they can be. And so be creative and who you think about as a collaborator. It makes the work better. So we are in year two, actually, of trying to, to research and understand what it means to build equitable mo use with these newsrooms. And so in the first year, we worked with three newsrooms that serve like communities of color, and that are like smaller newsrooms that specifically and talked with them about like their past experiences, what worked, what didn't work, what they would like to see and how they would like to be approached by national partners. And that has been a learning process for us. And we're in year two of it, like I said, working with some of the same partners but some different partners, and trying to examine and, and build out like a best practices guide that we hope that will we public and other newsrooms can use as well, when they're approaching local newsrooms, but in specifically approaching local newsrooms of color, about how what that looks like and what they should be keeping in mind.
Okay, so that QR code takes you to our collaborator list, sign up, please sign up. I promise I don't spam I just send like an email a week maybe. So we're we'll be continuing that on housed and undercounted project. There's some further The reporting that we're doing and we'll be sending to this list information about how to join any future collaborations on that topic or any other collaborations that we're working on. We occasionally send projects that we've published that are available for republishing, especially ones that we think have like really long legs really like we'd go deep into a community. We share access to toolkits from there. And it's a great networking and place to connect. Sometimes we have people join our kickoff calls for collaborations, not because the topic is something for their community, but because they want to chit chat with other collaborators, which is also a huge benefit for us as well as that.
I think so that was the last that was the last slide. Does anyone have any questions? Anyone want to hear a joke? Yes? No, I'm just joking. Come on.
Man, I don't want to be the one who puts the wall between the joke. Sorry, I'm very short. My name is Anjali Shah. I'm the editor in chief CEO and editor in chief of Charlottesville tomorrow. And a collaborator in Charlottesville inclusive media project, which we'll hear about tomorrow. I'm really excited. I've been working on the question of equity and Mo use for many years. And I love our our collaboration. I'd love to hear more about your funding transparency. We are tiny, but we are also the largest in our collaborative group. And I understand how appealing things like having a student paper collaborate with you are in your big grant proposals. Do you give that money back to the organizations after you fundraise based on the outcomes? Can you talk a little bit more about that funding transparency piece?
Yeah, it's a work in progress. And that's it's such a key question that you just asked. So the MOU work that we're doing, I'm so interested to hear about your experience, too, is grant funded, and part of our grant funding includes paying the newsrooms who are participating, like an amount of money so that they are being compensated for their time, we're not just asking them to volunteer, they're all of their thoughts and ideas on time.
We can Can I ask, so you, are you running that money through the Center for Public Integrity? Or is are you connecting those organizations directly with your funders?
Good question. For that, in that case, we're running it through the Center for Public Integrity. There's a lot you can probably talk about this for a minute what
what I was gonna say is we there was a news organization that we worked with lat last year while doing this, like inquiry, who we sat down with and talked about, like, who our funders were, and talked about who their funders were, and we, like our development person was like interested in connecting them with some of our funders. Right. So that was, in my like, since being at TPI, that was the first time that has happened, you know, when a product that I worked on, but it was a conversation of like, okay, who's your funder, and like, what kind of products? are you pitching to them? How can we maybe pitch a product together? It doesn't happen with all of our projects. But it is something that, like Lisa said, is a work in progress. And we think we are thinking about like when we're going after, like when we're working on projects, and we're going after funding, how does writing in a collaborator house? How does that what does that look like?
Thank you. Good question.
Another short person. So
this is great. Vera chan with Microsoft publishing team, I want to know, do you do work with ethnic media,
in their native languages? Dump it on that,
um, we don't have like multiple language translation ability in our news organization. But we have worked with many newsrooms that have translated their work. We had a climate project. And we, one of our collaborators was Honolulu civil, civil beep. And they translated into like a Hawaiian language, the work which was and then we feature that on our website, and we do a lot of work with Univision, who has translated into Spanish a lot of the work and then we published both versions.
Yeah, and and I will say that we do we do have reporters in our newsroom who do have the skills to do they do Yeah, like multiple multiple language reporting and things like that. So I just wanted to clarify that for the record, but and we have worked with like ethnic media outlets, I would say the the Washington former would probably considered a news organization that is Written by and published by a black publisher and serves the black community. And so definitely, is that something we've done in the past? And something that we're open to as well,
I think what I meant is we don't ask our reporters to transact. That's Yes.
Hi, there, Brian. so, so grateful for this session I'm really excited about one of the topics that has come up, when I've talked to newsrooms who are trying to their local newsroom they want to work with national partners, is their community may not have any brand awareness of that national partner, and they are now taking on the responsibility of introducing that partner to their community, when they're saying, I'm working with this organization. How do you think about that aspect of it about your reputation about what it looks like for an organization to work with you how you introduce yourselves to that community in that audience?
I don't know that we think about it very much. How do you think about it?
Well, it comes up. So we there's been an ongoing policy project that we've been working on mo years is a big piece of it. But the other one is, how does an organization talk to their community about, here's how we are responsible to you about who we work with why we work with them, the circumstances under which we work with partners. And part of that is this aspect of we may be introducing you to organizations you don't know and have a relationship with. And so thinking about that dynamic has been a topic in those conversations when you are bringing in a national partner who may not have previously interacted with your audience in some way.
Yeah, I would say we, and in my experience, that we've leaned on the local news organization, their relationship, and been respectful of their relationship, and like realizing that like, we're I guess, in that community and saying we're working like and it it benefits us to say we're working with this local news organization. And so we kind of like, by default, they are more trusting of us. So I haven't really run into the experience of mistrust from a community if we're working with a local partner who's already in that community.
Hi, my name is Beatriz Forman, and I'm the project coordinator for democracy day. This is my first time coordinating a collaboration and it's a national one. So I was curious kind of how you go about tracking both the quantitative and qualitative impact of a national collaboration, especially keeping in mind the equity aspects. So every organization has different resources available to them to track, you know, KPIs, but also like the tangible community impact of their work, they also have different audience sizes. So how do you keep track of all of that?
I find myself being pretty annoying as a project publishes and asking a lot of questions. When somebody publishes, I think that I typically have like, sort of a basic set of, excuse me, metrics that I'm asking about. And I asked the participants, what they think was a big win, what they what sort of impacts they think it is, I think there are so many ways to measure impact, right? There are like anecdotes, or people saying, like someone in the community saying, I learned something or my life got better because of this project. There are like, we had 10 million page views of that story. And I think it's really important to ask the partner what metrics are important to them with that project, what their goals had been with the project, and then how they did with it. But I think your question might be, how do you get people to respond?
I think My bigger question is our collaboration is, we have a lot of participants who are hyperlocal, or Canadian media outlets who are one person kind of ragtag teams. Yeah. And they often tell us that, well, we don't really have the bandwidth to track impact, but we're producing an impact report. So eventually, we will like need that. So kind of how how do you navigate that? We also acknowledging your own bandwidth?
i Yes, I think you have to make a commitment to the time of having like a bigger conversation with somebody and draw it out. For me, when somebody says they don't have the bandwidth to track it, maybe they're not sure what they should be tracking. And they just need to have a bigger conversation and sort of understand what their goals may have been. But I think you have to give yourself a lot of space to do that, because that's a lot of work. Thank you. We'll give you the space Beatrice.
Hi, thank you. I'm Heather with the Great Salt Lake collaborative in Utah. And I was really excited to hear what you were saying about working with your audiences, collaborators. And I wondered if you could give more examples, like I love the high school journalism example. But do you like share your data with the audience 12 weeks in advance like you do with your media partners, or how can you talk about that part?
I think when I think about having our audiences collaborators as the live events that we do, and how they shape that, and so Oh, an example is the art we did a US postal worker story about wage theft. And that was a really popular story for us. And we decided to do like a virtual event for that. And the folks who helped shape the live event were like the audience who is reading and so we put out questionnaires to to ask them what topics they wanted to hear about, we invited a US postal worker to be on who had read the story to be on the panel. And so when I think about audiences, collaborators, for me, and my experience has been, like the events that we've done that that has been really impactful.
We're also in the process of building some toolkits for anyone, not just like reporter brain, toolkits, but toolkits for communities to take our data, our information and advocate advocate kind of or go, like, get the information that they're seeking. We one thing that Ashley and I talked about recently is like, everybody is sort of a journalist like in the whole, like planet, right? Everybody has their own story to tell and needs information and seek set is something we're working on to is the idea of building those kits for anyone.
Awesome. So Ashley, tell us a joke. Yes. Man, I was hoping we would run out of time. This clock in front of me as I know. You guys see me out and about in DC and we're at a bar and want to buy me a drink. You might get like, like a sneak peek of what I've been workshop about that. All right. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Ashley. So much.