Day 1 Lightning Talks: How the Great Salt Lake Collaborative has rallied 21 organizations to jointly cover a local crisis
3:34PM Jun 20, 2023
salt lake tribune
All right, so next up, Lauren Gustus, where are you? There you are. All right, who's going to discuss the Great Salt Lake Collaborative. This is one of the latest solutions journalism supported collaborative. So Lauren, welcome to the stage.
I don't have a deck. Yeah.
The first video is just a very short summary of what the Great Salt Lake collaborative is. And it features some TV personalities who are a little dramatic. So to say that thank you.
Nuclear bomb in Utah and mighty Great Salt Lake is trying to I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that the Great Salt Lake presents an existential crisis and potentially deadly down the road, as it's just it's filled with cancer causing naturally occurring arsenic. So the predictions for the species are really dire. If we can't get water to the lake, the senior system crashes.
The Great Salt Lake collaborative here is a coalition of news media organizations, academic institutions, advocacy groups, calling attention to the way why it's so important and why we say this.
So I was asked to share a little bit of background, about how we could bring so many folks together with such enthusiasm and such passion around this topic, then there are over 20 news organizations are suing over 20 organizations over 17 news organizations, or 17, to be more precise, because we are reporters that are focused on the Great Salt Lake and Utah. And we put the group together without a topic, we started to convene a conversation amongst news organizations, and we didn't know where we wanted to go. And I think that was really important. I want to credit solutions journalism network for convening the conversation and helping us to get liftoff on this project. But they didn't pressure us and they didn't say, Hey, what's your idea? Where are you going? So we had some time to incubate. And we moved through a number of ideas, a number of wicked problems, if you will, and the group together settled on the Great Salt Lake. So everyone in the collaborative had an opportunity to weigh in some people left some people didn't stay because they didn't like the topic we picked. That was fine, right? Because we knew we had folks who were committed. So I would say in terms of one of the things that was critical for us is bring people in, make sure they're part of the process, can they help you decide versus you going with that idea straight away? Second thing that was really helpful, I mentioned solutions journalism network was not only the seed funding, but the structure that they put around the formation of the collaborative, they demanded that we do certain trainings, they demanded that we set things up in a certain capacity, they did not demand that we do the journalism in any way, shape or form. Right. But they asked us to think about how we were going to do it and what our outcomes were. And that was super helpful. And then the last thing I would say that led to our early success, and I'll get into impact in just a second was a single individual a person Heather May, she is here today. She's our project manager, have their Thank you.
And she is a catalyst. You know, you have those people who just don't stop. Heather is one of them, right? And as you know, in a collaborative, you're often herding cats, and they're not your cats, right. And so, Heather does not hesitate to pull us all together and say this is what you need. This is where we need to go. This is a decision we need to make. And that's fundamental, at least for us, right? Because we all report to different folks and have different missions. So I want to share just another video one more, little less TV in it. But I'll give you a sense of what we're looking at with respect to the Great Salt Lake and how we set about making an impact and then I'll cover that impact.
We just sent the team of reporters from the findings organization, the Deseret News from our friendly competitor in Salt Lake Tribune and also the boxer team and together they went to California to collect interviews and video and images. And it's a bringing home this story of what struggling families in California were experiencing the impact to have communities and solutions that they're trying to find gainful that Derek
and the story map that we use was
it would not be possible for us to produce that story on are
on the platform. And so I think that this old see how the working collaboratively can hopefully reach further into our community that if we tried to tackle this individually, without the collaborative,
our nice directors, reporters, videographers would not have the opportunity to do that. But it's a different shift in how we do journalism.
Another radio collaborative, we get out in the community,
we did a lot of festivals in the summer, and we sat down, we talked with people about the rain Salt Lake, pop quiz, if you could tell me what that animal is. Yay, Brian Tripp. So in the year since we were formed, or the year and a half since we were formed, the Utah State Legislature has allocated $1 billion in funding for the lake, they have set up a system such that we can improve irrigation on farms and how we measure how much water we're using in Utah a tremendous amount of our water goes to AG. They've created a trust so that we can buy water rights that can then go into the Great Salt Lake. They rewrote legislation such that if a farmer doesn't use her or his water, it goes into the Great Salt Lake and it's not lost. The next year, we have this weird system of water rights in the West some of you may be familiar with. And they've limited the use of mining companies water on the Great Salt Lake, which is another significant source of water usage. Utah students hosted a die in at the lake to talk or to create awareness, excuse me of where we are headed at the Great Salt Lake and the lake thanks to our efforts. Just kidding. The lake is up five feet from where it was at its historic low last year, which is great news, you can clap, we're happy. We had a historic winter. And so we bought ourselves some time, which is good because all of the policy changes and all of the money that we have allocated to the lake will take time to make change. So I want to leave you with just a couple of comments. The first is from our governor Spencer Cox. Everywhere I go, he said I can't believe I'm quoting Spencer Cox. This is the question I get. What are we doing to save the Great Salt Lake? And then our mayor Mayor Erin Mendenhall said this is my 10th year at City Hall. I've never seen a local environmental issue rise to Public and International consciousness as swiftly and broadly as this shrinking of our Great Salt Lake. I need to cite our great local reporters at the Great Salt Lake collaborative