Day 1 Keynote: Strategies behind local news collaborations
3:24PM Jun 20, 2023
So next gene genes, the genes, gene Friedman radowski and Gene Sohn, please come up to the stage. They are going to talk about five years of one of the best collaborations in the country local collaborations. As we move to local broken, Philippe, take it away.
Good morning. It's very bright up here. Sorry, just realizing different, different perspective from the stage. I am Gene Friedman, rudovsky. I'm the co founder and executive director of resolve Philly. And I was for the first year and a half or so the project editor of broken Philly, the reporting project and collaborative we're going to be talking about today. And I'm Jean song. And I first joined this collaboration in my role when I was news director Why Why the big public radio and television station in Philadelphia. But for the last two and a half years, I've been leading the project as director of collaborations.
Well, here are some basics. If you're unfamiliar with broken fillings, no slides, just to give everyone a heads up, we're just just going to be talking and some short video clips later. We started in 2018, on the heels of a successful short term collaboration called the reentry project. We've looked at people the experiences of people re entering after being in prison or jail. And we started as it was going to be a one year project. But we quickly figured out that we needed to last a lot longer. And we committed to making it five years and we marked five years in April of this year and are winding down this month.
We have big papers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and big stations like why wire but we also have small outlets that are typically digital only such as Kensington voice, which focuses on the Kensington neighborhood, which if you're outside of Philadelphia, you probably have only heard about in terms of the issues of addiction and drug dealing, but there's so much more going on there. And we're Filipinos, which is a online radio station, serving the Spanish speaking population. We've published more than 3200 articles in the five years. And we have now a newsletter that has about 2000 subscribers. And what resolve has grown along when resolve and broken Philly started, it was what it was Eugene.
And then it's grown over the years, we've now grown to have a lot of shared resources that support our collaborative reporting, including a data journalist. We have a community engagement team, our Derek Kane, who leads that team is here there. And we also have shared investigative reporter. And we also have a community narratives editor, do Roberson is also here do helps people tell their own stories in a first person or op ed style thing. And I guess the last thing I would want to say about the about the basics are that we have grown resolve has grown into doing a lot of other things other than the collab. But all those things share the same goal, and that we're trying to make community centered reporting more prevalent in Philadelphia and change the way the journalism is done in Philadelphia.
I'm going to tell a quick story. Because I think what we want to try to talk about is what we've learned over the last five years by doing this work in Philadelphia, and share a little bit about kind of where we're headed and how we're thinking about that.
In so since the beginning of the reentry project, so predating broken Philly, we have monthly meetings, we have meetings between all of what we call our newsroom reps. So one or two people from each of the newsrooms that we work with, of course, at the very beginning, we always came together in person, then it switched to zoom. Now it's a bit hybrid.
In March of 2020, the world collapsed, right, pandemic happened at the very beginning of the month, we had a collaborative meeting planned for I think it was the third Thursday in March. And I remember being kind of terrified going into that meeting. And my worry was Was anyone gonna show up? Right? I mean, think about where each of your heads were at the beginning of March or mid March of 2020. Think about what your newsrooms were going through, I mean, just scrambling to understand what was going on what information your community needed, thinking about the impending, you know, crash of the economy, and local media, all of these things. And so I remember just worrying like, Oh, my God, are we going to survive this? Are people going to want to keep coming to these meetings, because as we all know, we're all in collaborative journalism, except for some of the folks who are up here on stage most of you Do it as kind of an add on to the other work that you are already doing. Right. Unless you have collaborations manager editor in your title, you are doing it as something extra. And so we, you know, opened zoom, which was still sort of a relatively new thing at that point, we had never had an all virtual meeting. And I see, you know, the waiting room just start to fill up and fill up and fill up. We had someone on at that point, I think we were 21 newsrooms, we had someone on from every single one. And we normally have a good attendance rate. But often, you know, there's folks who can't show up. And it, it sort of dawned on me, oh, my god, like, people are here, for a reason. And I thought about that. And I think there were two main things. There are two main reasons why they were there. One, they felt safe, there was a sense of community that felt like, Oh, this is a place where I'm going to be able to see and connect to folks who I have built those relationships with trust with right. Them CPI just talked so much about trust. And that is absolutely a key thing and in collaborations. And I think the second part was, they realize that at that moment, when what was at the forefront of all of our minds as journalists was, how do we make sure we are serving information needs at this time of total panic and uncertainty, that that would be done better together? Right? It wasn't they weren't there necessarily to talk about collaborative reporting on economic mobility at that moment, they showed up to talk about how are we going to weather this storm together. And to me, that was just a real marker of kind of how far we had grown as a journalism ecosystem in Philadelphia, because we're talking about the famously ultra competitive media market. And over the course of several years at a moment of utter crisis, folks are, you know, seeking one another out, to to serve their community rather than just sort of like bunkering down and going it alone.
So last year, we started knowing that our fifth birthday was coming up, and that we're going to be old enough for kindergarten, we decided we wanted to figure out what to do next. And we we started in May of 2022. And one of the first things we asked is, What do you want to keep, that we do? Well, now that we want to keep into it, and that sense of community and belonging was the number one thing I was shocked, I shouldn't have been. But I was actually shocked. Because when I joined the collaborative, one of my old job, one of the things I really cared about is getting access to be republishing high quality reporting on this subject area that we were still developing expertise in. But that was actually way down on the list. The community that had been built up was the number one priority. And the other things happened to it's not that you know, they were just a club, you know, but but it really is one of the things that we've intentionally kept in it. And we've done all sorts of things in terms of figuring out well, what are we going to do next, in terms of everything in terms of like working groups that took up all sorts of ideas? I'm like, Well, what are we going to focus on editorially? How do we want to structure it all that, and that was one of the one of the things that was really helpful, but I'm sorry. And the other thing is that the other thing that they really valued was that we are a community of learning we do what we call lunch and learns. They haven't been very much in person. But they both harness expertise within our collaborative in terms of sharing skills and understanding that people expertise that we have within the collab with others, but also when we need it, we go out and we use some of our budget to pay for outside experts to do training for our McCullagh members.
And, of course, as as we were having these conversations, folks, we're proud of the impact that the reporting had. We there is a film that we're about to show just a couple of very small clips of that gets a little bit more at this. There have been you know, there's 3000 stories that have published policy change that has impacted hundreds and 1000s of people in our city and actually even in some cases statewide. And there's been other sorts of impact too. And that's the first clip we're gonna see. So this is a retrospective film, we worked with a fabulous production company called triple seven productions. If you're in Philly or around there, we highly recommend it. This first clip we're going to see Sarah Lomax Reese who is the president and CEO of word radio, which is one of the only independently on black talk radio stations in the country. It's one of two in Pennsylvania. She's also the co founder of URL media. I know they're on the schedule for later, later today. And she's going to be talking a little bit about and she's been a word has been a member of the collaborative since the reentry project has stayed with it the whole time. And she's talking a little bit about what she has seen. So Joe, it's clip B
it's so hard to, especially in the media to feel like anything that you've done individually has really, you know, oh, that's that's that change policy that changes. It's and that's the value I think of broken Philly is it's a network effect. And so we're not we're not seeing reductions in, in violence, we're not seeing like the statistical things that are changing, but I do think narratives are changing. And I think that that's a very powerful part of what media can do. If
we want to produce news that people can use in their lives like really use, then we have to be working together, we have to be doing a better job of listening, we have to be doing a better job focusing on solutions, not just the problems themselves.
I mean, now, like almost all of the major and minor media players are a part of broken Philly. And so that, to me, is an incredible win.
Thank you. And the last thing that we heard of what folks, you know, really valued is that the Collaborative has been a place where centering Community Voices is a starting point, and not an afterthought. So when Stefanie was talking about the trends in, in collaborative journalism, and that last one community engagement reference, the SJ NS local media project, where it you know, they require that community engagement is part of that want to give a little credit where credit is due Derek and his team, I think, our lot responsible for that, because of what he was able to demonstrate in Philadelphia, and what the power of community engagement can really be when you're working on a collaborative. And so we're gonna go to the next clip, where d is talking a little bit about his work. You will also see Henry Savage, who is a civics reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, he used to be at the Kensington voice, the newsroom that, that Gigi in reference to earlier so let's go to that clip, Joe.
Oftentimes, journalists doesn't really want to reflect the community that they're reporting on in to really don't know the community in general. So I think a lot of times, and that's where this gap has grown over so many years, and why folks feel a little hesitant talking to journalists, because they feel like their story won't be represented accurately.
I think in you know, in my career, or just as broken Philly does things. I think it's about trying to make the news more approachable and just more accessible in general,
by doing the tabling and getting to know people when being out in volunteer and be actually volunteer oftentimes, as well. And just getting to know folks, it kind of peels back layers of mistrust, because Natti understanding okay, you're maybe you may be a journalist, but they know who you are. Now, they see you in the community, you're not just there, then parachuting in and getting your soundbite and leave. And you're actually want to know what's going on in the community and curious about the community and also want to tell a story that's reflective of the community accurately. So I think all of those things is plays a part in our tabling and our sound offs and everything that we do. It's about building relationships. That's why our number one priority, as communication team is relationship building. And then trust, oftentimes, are peeled back because they understand now they have a better understanding of the process of journalism they have a better understanding of the person is coming in their community. And he feels more comfortable talking to
the other things that we did in our process I mentioned alluded to the earlier that we have these working groups, one in editorial focus, one looking at professional development, one in terms of like, who's in this collaborative our membership and like who's missing, and how we can work better. But one of the things that was really key in that is that we've integrated community engagement throughout that process, and that at every step of the way, we've checked in with trusted community partners to say, this is the this is the path we think we're on what do you think of that and get feedback from them both in terms of the subject matter, but also is there language that we should be worried about? Is there is there are there things that they see like when you mentioned this topic area, what should we think we should be thinking about that we as journalists might be blind to so the the result of all that work, is what we have a we have a plan. We don't have exactly a name for it yet that we figured out that naming is really hard. But we have come up with a with a topic of it. And if excuse me, I want to and what it is going to be is that we want to do more in depth reporting on hidden systems that affect the daily lives of Philadelphians, and where the symptoms are a problem that are clear But the systems that cause that or are feeding that are hard to see and sometimes need that connections to be made. So that's where we've gotten to. And it feeds the desire and the hunger from our members that wanted to really dig into something more deeply, and frankly, not be constrained in a more narrow topic. But we've also didn't, we're working on the tension of have it not be about just about anything. I think
one of the learnings that we had throughout this process was, you know, from going from reentry, which was a, you know, fairly narrow topic, and in some ways, beautifully narrow, because I think it's important that collaboration start off with something very tangible, very concrete, something that is very clearly defined, it was incredibly helpful for us in Philadelphia, to something broader, right, poverty, economic mobility, it touches in a city like Philadelphia, it touches almost everything. But it's still you know, it's still pretty it is a it is a topic. And what we heard over the last, you know, year or so that Jean has done this project is that folks want to be working together as a collaborative with more freedom and flexibility to work with one another on various projects, that yes, have a common editorial theme and focus, but not necessarily be hemmed in by that topic. And so it is it is an experiment, as all of the things that we do here in Philadelphia are, it is one that we feel comfortable doing after working together, you know, some folks now for six years, where you have that layer of trust, where you know, folks are just like, literally excited to be doing deeper dives, not just, you know, straight investigative pieces, but going back to our roots or not going back to but continuing with our roots of being a solutions journalism collaborative, and how do we make sure that all of the work that we are doing going forward is not one off pieces, it's not sort of you know, smatterings, here and there, but really deeply reported solutions and investigative pieces throughout the collaborative.
And actually picking up on what that one of the exciting things about our new project is, while it's not a strict requirement, we have this idea where we call that a second bite at the apple that for every story that we do, we have a companion piece, it could be a community event, it could be finding a person in the course of the reporting, who would do a first person or op ed piece and write their own story. It could be a, it could be one of different various things. But what we've heard from our members is that we all know this intuitively, as well as practically that we want to engage more consistently and not just come in and leave. But we need discipline to make that happen. And so we're baking that into how we run this, that there will be kind of two touches on each area or each story. Giving you an idea of a little more less theoretical idea of what we have visions for stories that might come out of this. For example, if a community is curious about what's going to be built on vacant lots in Philadelphia, this is an area where we're expecting to do a lot of of reporting in terms of who has access to it. And why is the process so hard to understand, from the point of view of someone who lives in the neighborhood, and is wondering what's happening to something that's either maybe a trash doing lot now, or maybe home to a community garden, that's going to be something else. Another example of some of the reporting we're going to do is, well, I mentioned trash, trash is a big deal in Philadelphia. But digging deeper in terms of why that is, such as we are currently doing some data research in terms of where trash cans of all kinds are and how often they're emptied. And whether we're using the resources in Philadelphia smartly, in terms of doing that, particularly like we have a lot of cities have these, quote unquote, smart trash cans. And we're looking into whether they've really done the job. Those are just two examples of kind of the reporting that we think will fit with our new project.
And I think if if you can tell from what Jean was saying, there is a focus on reporting for the communities that we exist to serve. And, you know, while we are a collaboration, and obviously, each of our reporting partners has their own distinct audience when I say the communities that we as resolve exist to serve, that is communities in Philadelphia who have been long excluded or harmed by traditional media coverage. So we're very clear about who are who we are here. Who we are here to work with, who we are here to serve. And that you know for for this next iteration of the reporting project that is going to be top of mind. There's going to be another reason why we're excited about this direction is there's so many more ways than for the other things that we do at resolve as an organization to sort of flow in and out of that. Christine via nuevas. Here she runs her equally informed project Act which is a text line where we send out valuable news and information to our subscriber base twice a week. It is also an open q&a line in English and Spanish. A lot of you probably know outlier media and there's, you know, a similar similar model their source of great inspiration to us. Also, within including equally informed, we have info hub captains who these are folks who are people who live in certain neighborhoods of Philadelphia, who already play a sort of informal information sharing role in their community, whether they are block captains, Ward leaders, run home, daycares, whatever it is, we work with them, give them some basic journalism training. They produce a free newsletter that we distribute throughout the city. And they also become a source of, of connection. And for them to tell us what what do folks on your blog care about at this moment? What are those things that they're wondering about? Right? The trash cans, the vacant lots? How can we as a collaborative, then seek to seek to fill those information gaps and really kind of surfacing everything from that grassroots level, from the very beginning.
In the few minutes we have left, we want to talk a little bit about some of the things we've learned and a year of figuring out what to do next. And not surprisingly, it's reinforced how much relationships matter. And I'm talking globally, we have relationships within our collab relationship with with community partners, who are better eyes and ears for us relationship with info hub captains, and one of and being very open and upfront about were the dynamics that are involved there. And not just leaving that quietly unset.
There's been a lot, a lot of metaphors up on stage, but I will throw another one today that really in local news, collaboration, it's a marathon and not just a sprint, right? Like, yes, you will get some of those stories that have, you know, at least on our scale, sort of very big impact city wide or statewide. And also, it is about, you know, the benefits that we are seeing kind of being reaped month after month, month, a year after year go go so much broader. It is that narrative change that Sarah was talking about in the clip, it is about exercising sort of those muscles within each of the newsrooms that we work with to think a little bit more every day about reform, about reporting for and with rather than about. And that, you know, I think someone in one of the presentation, I think it was just the CPI talked about how past collaborative experiences are absolutely going to inform how you how you approach a new collaboration. And I think we're really proud of the fact that people have had good experiences within both the reentry project in broken Philly. And so now there is collaboration that happens all of the time throughout Philadelphia, in part because they've had practice and seen that it's not that scary, that yes, it takes work. And yes, sometimes you just need to walk away all of those things. And also, you can do it and it's an it's not as terrifying as it might have seemed. And also in practice, there is literally a space where every month people are coming together to talk outside of the boundaries of their own newsrooms, we have a Slack team that has close to 300 people in it. So imagine just like a place in your city or region where you can just go on there. And you know that there are not only people from newsrooms all over the city, there are freelancers there, you know, it's just kind of this wide network. So there's actually kind of the mechanics for other collaborations to spring up. As, as part of the work that we've kind of seen it and we feel really proud of that. I would say the the other thing, kind of along these lines that that we've really learned is that when you are when you're in this marathon, because we are in the news business, and you know, obviously we have lost some newsroom partners along the way, which is always really hard. And also, there have been new news organizations that have sprung up over the course that we've been working together. And one of the things that we heard, Fiona Morgan is somewhere Where's Fiona? So Fiona has done a really comprehensive written retrospective of our work over the last five years. And some of what she was able to surface in conversations with the newsrooms that we've worked with is that folks who have founded new news startups in the last five years have really kind of looked to other people in in the broken Philly Collaborative for support for advice for guidance to sit on their boards, all these sorts of things, which is just kind of like a huge bonus stat that this community that has been created has has also been beneficial to those who are just starting out.
And last thing, before we get to q&a, we learned how helpful solutions focus has been. And I look at it in two, at least two ways. One is that the solutions focus helps helps us engage with residents of Philadelphia to figure out what they really want to learn about or what the problems that they're experiencing are, in order to make sure that our journalism is grounded in something that is really useful. And second of all, in terms of and this summer, I'm really excited in the new project is making sure that we are helping spread awareness of solutions that exist in neighborhoods, but might not be known to neighborhoods over Philadelphia, you know, the, the cliche is it's a city of neighborhoods, and sometimes you can go to neighborhoods over and it's like a whole different city. And one of the things we're looking forward to doing is spotlighting the solutions that exist in some neighborhoods that could be applicable elsewhere. Sorry, we didn't leave a ton of time for questions but but we do have a little bit
yes, we covered everything. We just nailed it
Yes, both of those things, thank you for that prompt. Both of those things are now on our website. So if you go to resolve philly.org Scroll down a bit you will see a link to it says you know celebrating five years in broken Tilly and it takes you to a page where you can both then see the video, which is about 20 minutes long. And also download Fiona's report.
Ooh, the full video. I want to watch that. It's great. Thank you both so so much and the rest of your team who's here to thank you