Solving for Chicago: One year later (CJS2022 Day 1)
7:35PM May 25, 2022
Jim Brady, the Vice President journalism for the Knight Foundation, and I'm joined here and because I subbed in at the last minute, I'm gonna have to read some things off my phone. So my apologies for the awkwardness of that. But I'm going to do my introductions now the the folks that are right next to me is Sam Cholke, he's the Project Director of Solving for Chicago is a collaborative of 23 prints digital, and broadcast newsrooms in Chicago working collaboratively to cover pressing issues and serving communities. Next to Sam is Alden Loury, he's the senior editor of the race class and communities desk at WBEZ, maybe the most, one of the most collaborative newsrooms in Chicago, they've been participating in these sorts of collaborations in the city for about the last 20 years. And all the way on the end is Evan Lyon, Illinois Director of Partners In Health, who has helped lead the has helped lead the Chicago land vaccine partnership, a collaborative of more than 160 Community Health Organizations has advocated for equitable access to vaccines and health care during the pandemic. And I'm trying to slow down because I'm notoriously fast talker. I'm trying very hard to so free, feel free to just shoot me a sign if I'm going too fast. So anyway, I want to start by welcome everybody to Chicago. This has been a is a fitting place to have the conference this year, because there's been collaborations going on in the city for longer than most other cities in the country. We're talking about one very specifically, but we can go back about 20 years and this I wanted to read something that Deborah Douglas wrote in The Guardian last year about Chicago's unique ability to continually innovate. Deborah wrote that as newspapers continue in nearly two decades decline. Studies show that many communities are losing reliable information about local and state government, and potentially feeling intense partisan politics, corruption and inefficiency. We know none of those things ever happened in Chicago. Chicago, whoever's in a different city, she did not write that, by the way that was the Chicago whoever's in a different situation. The city has a thriving experimental new scene. Chicago's web of news and information means many of the coverage fills many of the coverage holes often left by legacy media such as the Tribune and racially diversity. There's roughly 1/3, Latino, 1/3, white, and 1/3, black. And those of us who spend time here, I've not lived in Chicago, but I shouldn't I shouldn't say as a full disclosure, I worked with Sam on solving for Chicago when I was doing consulting is working for the local media association. So I actually know a fair amount about this collaborative. But everybody knows the spirit of experimentation here is not new. As far back as 1990 Chicago newsrooms are working together on coverage, the projects like Chicago matters, which ran for almost 20 years before shuttering in 2009. Looking back now, a lot of it might sound familiar to those outside of Chicago, but collaborative collaboration at the time was the answer the economic pressures wreaking havoc on traditional news outlets. And even back then funding going beyond collaboration with just newsrooms. I'm sorry, back. I'm just reading. I don't understand the sense so rapidly, we got the last minute. So anyway. But we've been city's been at this for a long time. And after 30 years of collaboration, Chicago, really is trying to help figure out what's next for journalism. So let's start with the questions since I'm fumbling my way through this. All then we'll start with you. You were an editor, and then publisher, Chicago reporter during Chicago matters. And you're now the senior editor for race class and community in Chicago, both media, which has been a collaborator in the city for a long time. So you've seen collaboration, probably more than most in the city have been involved in more of them. What is the you know, what is the benefits? You've seen that the benefits of collaboration changed as businesses gotten more challenged? And what you just overall sees the benefits of collaboration? Sure. Thanks, Jim. And
thanks for doing this. Yes, I was at Chicago reporter for the last 10 years of Chicago Matters was from 2000 to 2009. And it was a fabulous project. I mean, it was essentially every year we go in, and we think about what we're doing that particular year at the reporter. And whatever Chicago matters was going to be was going to be three easy. We were 11 issues. When I started there.
We weren't six issues
when I finished there, but it was literally three of our cover stories each year. So it was it was our signature effort. And we were partnering with Public Radio, public TV and the public library. And so there were a lot of different things. We were an eclectic group, none of us did the same things, necessarily. We covered news where we covered on different mediums. The library was its own animal. So in that collaboration, we really leaned on the strengths of each individual partner, but we did come together at the outset and figure out what it was that we were going to report on. What we were going to cover what we were going to focus on and what were something things that we really wanted to make sure we really hit on that. And from time to time, we were actually working on projects together one year, catalyst Chicago, which was our sister publication under the community, I'm sorry, committee, renewal society, nonprofit. We partner with them. And with WBEZ on a number of stories around education when education was I've seen that one year. I think at that point, what collaborations was giving us a moment where we really zeroed in on one particular thing that was affecting Chicago and Chicagoland area. And then we were touching on it in a number of different ways. And so I thought it was a very informative, very dynamic and very powerful collaboration. And it felt very sense. It had so much history, and I would go to those meetings every year. And I knew Mary field and I knew Sally Isley, who was at the BBC at the time was the news director. So even though we were only coming together for those meetings, every every year, there was some synergy and community among that there was buy in, we get haggle sometimes on what we want to focus on, but there was a buy in on that. And the trust was a great partner in terms of funding it. But then also in creating a space where we could we could work through that. And it was at the time, something that we really hadn't seen being done. But But I think it really kind of helped set the stage for what this thing could be. Collaboration I've seen, has morphed some sense, then now you've got a much wider news ecosystem in Chicago, the reporter was very unique at that time, because it was one of the only institutions that was really looking at issues of race and equality, as a matter of course, but now you've got a number of outlets that are doing that, from city Bureau to justice watch to a number of others, tribe, you name it. And so, you know, the economic struggles that the the news organization or the news media has is suffering. I think we would just really getting into that during those years with Chicago matters. But certainly after 2008, you know, the landscape has changed financially and collaboration has become a necessity for for a lot of places. But I think along the way, with the with more partners, with people who are more focused on some of the, you know, myriad ways Chicago was diverse and inequitable, and all of that. There have been a lot of very interesting partnerships that have that have cropped up. And sometimes those partnerships crop up in a very organic way. And then sometimes people are actually actively looking to say, hey, look, this is something we really want to tackle. I've got six reporters at my disposal, four of them are tied up on something. We want to get this thing out, who can we work with that can help us get this done? Who has a handle on a particular issue that maybe we don't really have? We don't have a strong suit. And some collaborations have happened it would it be Jay reached out to us maybe a couple of years ago for a story they wanted to do about
public incentives that were being given to Amazon and some of these other places that were building warehouses. The south suburbs was a place where a lot of activity was happening. David Kidwell, UGA reached out to us and said, Hey, look, you know, we want to get this done. We've got a handle on some aspect of this. But there's an aspect of it, that we're really kind of green, I think you guys would be a great partner for us to help fill in that gap. And so you know, what would now be more and we work with David and freelancer, John Lippert that was working with them. They had already done a ton of work. But what we brought was an understanding of what the struggles were in the south suburbs and how this particular issue, I was having a unique effect on those on those communities. And so through the recording and the editing process, there was a lack of we added that gave it a much fuller and more complete view of that story. And that's also an aspect of what collaboration can bring. Some of the other things I think had been great had been, as you've had some of these smaller, you know, the length, the landscape of the smaller kind of up and coming, if you will, and less resource news organizations, but very gritty, you know, pounding the pavement and a lot of street smarts that you know, even some of the bigger news organizations don't quite have. It's an opportunity to really kind of give a larger stage and platform at some level of training and expertise to go to the younger journalists. partnership we did with city bureau. We did a big thing with Linda Lawton. And then I edited a co edited this project. Ken was the lead editor on it, but we're looking at mortgage lending in Chicago, and how black and Latino neighborhoods were, as you might imagine getting destroyed and sick and have been for decades. But the partnership with city Bureau allowed us to give a young journalist there an opportunity to really get his hands dirty, he told the first person account of growing up in the Guillet neighborhood and and seeing the data that we had surfaced around the disparities and lending there, he told a very powerful story about his own up and coming his family's issues with with with mortgage lending, and how it was affecting the neighborhood. And so that collaboration gave a platform and a space to a young journalist they might not have and, and ended up being a part of an award winning project. And that's something that he can put on every resume that he puts on going forward. So collaboration has given us I think, a lot more and I think the landscape is still forming and changing we're have I can't say too much when we're talking now with with a with a another news organization about working together on a big project. And we're starting out talking about audience engagement. And that's a developing part of the work that we do now as journalists. And it's, it's becoming a more mainstream part of it. So you know, instead of, you know, hey, how do we connect with people to think about to push our stuff out to get people connected with the journalism done? We're incorporating the audience in the actual journalism and really talking to plans to talk through with them. What should we be covering? How should we look at this issue? How can we make it different than what's been done before, but then also using that as a reporting opportunity to talk with them about how this issue is affecting them now? What What can this work that we're doing impact the ways in which they're viewing this thing? And so I it's become for a variety of different reasons. Something that we're we're we're much more accustomed to much more comfortable with? You don't really see the level of competitiveness that I think we might have seen, if we were trying some of the collaboration we're doing now. We're trying to, you know, 1520 years ago, so I think the landscape is, is promising, and we're still learning and developing. And, you know, so yeah, I think it's been, it's been a really good, a really good.
And he noted that, that need to get up audience engagement for a long time, I would say, I think, until maybe seven or eight years ago, the talk of collaboration was always really helping to ease the newsrooms burden. But it wasn't always focused on the communities. It was focused on what we need to share stories, because we need more stuff. Now. It seems like what and so do you think you've seen a has there been a shift in terms of how collaboratives are helping all of the communities that median Chicago cover because it helped get information in front of people in ways that it could not have prior to the collaboration starting?
I will say yes, I mean, it's especially as you see, folks like ProPublica, working with injustice watch. And you see, the Chicago reporter working with Chicago Public Media, you see some of the acts at City bureau with us and working with other partners, it gives an opportunity for small organizations that are focused on looking at say, focusing in basketball into their skin. Yeah, see that. And so you've got people who have an understanding of what likeness communities like the need for real responsible journalism. And they are partnering with institutions that can give a much larger impact women staged it can bring resources can bring levels of expertise with regard to the nuts and bolts of reporting on complex issues, which I think is great. The other thing that I think we've seen also is that you've seen, not only has the the last data ecosystem, diversify, from the standpoint of the kinds of issues in communities that have been covered, but also you've got different types of skills that are there, you've got groups like McCracken, and de tomate, who have kind of brought a whole new kind of platform and technical expertise, particularly in regard to data analysis, and with regard to manipulating and working with with digital platforms. And so there are things that you may have some shops that may have a specialty, or special unit that can do that kind of stuff. But given a state of thin resources, you don't have as many of those places as you had in the past. But some of these specialized shops now can come in and give that level of heft. And, and that can create a whole new way of in terms of the depth that you can get into on some issues. So So So I think you're seeing a number of those things. And that is all providing greater service because we're digging deeper. And like I said, we're giving a much more nuanced kind of coverage to communities into particular issues than we ever have.
So I'll just kind of set the tone For the last kind of setting the tone for the last 20 years of collaboration in Chicago, Sam is going to talk some about solving for Chicago, which is the more most recent of those, which is what, two years old now? Yeah, two years old. So it resolved fairly was a lot of us who are looking at collaborates were a part of that.
So we were, we were part of that when I was running Billy Penn, and it was a fabulous collaborative be a part of that, that really set the tone for a lot of future collaborations. And we talked about that a lot when we're setting this up. But just talking about what's on Chicago is letting you kind of talk a little bit about how it came together some of the challenges and
Yeah, I mean, I think Alden did a really good job of setting the stage here, like everybody in Chicago has pretty much bought in on collaboration. But they that also means they all come with a lot of expectations, a lot of baggage. So when you want to do something really big, they kind of know what they want, which was great. But the idea of doing something really big, offered some new opportunities and some new challenges. I mean, it's it's at its base, probably like a collective power thing. We're much more fractured, the audience is much more fractured. If you want to do something that leverages all the power of media, that level comes from having a big audience, you have to be together to do that. And boy, did COVID ever show us that too. I mean, just the amount of information needs that suddenly came up. And we didn't know where these people were, right? Like, suddenly essential workers had a ton of information needs about how do I travel around the city? Can I get on the bus? Can I drive the boss? You know, and we didn't know like, great, but like, where are they? What news outlets? Do they subscribe to? How do we find them? How do we reach them? How do we give them this basic information. And then it transferred into the all the questions around vaccines to that huge number of issues that were suddenly really well equipped for us to handle. But we didn't know. And that was part of the work of solving for Chicago early on was reaching out and figuring out where they were when we decided we wanted to tackle essential workers like, Great, now there's this new group of people who were on who reaches that, you can sort of guess that, you know, we're the defender as part of our grouping, we sort of suspect that that's older, you know, black news readers, but what are their concerns versus the Southside weekly, which is younger, black and Hispanic leaders, and what are their concerns. And it was really us coming together to start to understand both what the needs were out there. And we needed to all be together and be able to reach all of them and understand what those needs were because there was no institution, I couldn't go to the essential workers Institute. So we had to figure out where they were and what their actual needs were. And we needed to all work together to actually have some meaningful engagement with them. Now, once we knew we it was a lot of work just to sort of get the reporting that ultimately be super quick to produce, but he hasn't had the audience that needs that information, I might need to get it over to the defender. Right? So if I'm trying to meaningfully engage and inform people that have desperate needs for information, I need some structure, some structure like solving for Chicago, and that's what we ended up doing. And I'll talk, we talk a minute about how it was that was the big challenge was to understand first, like, what is people in? What do they need? Like they have questions about vaccines that they're looking to us for answers for, how do we provide it and it was doing a lot of simple like, spillover effects from that to like, our fractured nature of our industry, while the other industries that we interact with the most would start to monopolize, like us coming together like we I mean, you were there for we were able to get site audits from Google staff. For our newsrooms, that was the first time that it ever happened, we couldn't have done that we couldn't have approached Google, if we were all on our own. We needed some sort of collective base to even like be able to have this sort of conversations because they've grown so huge that sometimes they don't even see us.
Yeah. So so it sounds like collaboration is starting to meet a lot more than just co reporting. And I'm curious what some of the limits of those, what are the limits of collaboration that you obviously were able to collaborate on the revenue side to. So the idea was to try to generate revenue for those participating in it to Stefanie's point, kind of Statement on the state of the state of collaboration. And I know there's also collaborative now, collaborating with other collaboratives. And very meta evidence feels like a good time to bring you in as well. But Sam, why don't you start about talking about why it's helping Chicago museums are gonna partner with another collaborative. And then Evan, I'm curious to hear well, this connects on your
Yeah, so we had a really basic problem, which was, we needed to just hear from the central workers, what their information needs work, right, like, what are they looking for from us. And it was really important for us to because a lot of these central workers main jobs was I mean, we've haven't script was distributing vaccines. And there's an enormous number of questions around vaccines, and how people make that decision to take the vaccine or not. And what role we have to do is play and we didn't even understand what our role was, we needed to have that sort of understanding and we were lucky to have another collaborative out there that was sort of on the other side of that fence. Also thinking about those sorts of public information questions which was evidence group which vaccine court at the time and now Chicagoland vaccine partner sharp
Can I jump in? Yeah, so thanks everyone for letting me be here as a, you know, collaborator and slight outsider. So I've worked for the last year and a half with this group in Chicago that was focused on the inevitability of inequity in in COVID outcomes, especially vaccine. So beginning late 2020 group of funders and mostly academics saw that, of course, the same way we saw disparity and death, hospitalization, consequences of COVID. That would play out in vaccines, because of the way our health systems are structured, they don't work in terms of equity, they don't work in terms of reaching people that have been historically marginalized, left out mistreated by health care, subject to, you know, racist, public health science, etc, etc. And our organization is a nonprofit, similar struggles with the collaborative, we have to beg for money as well. Healthcare, you know, has its problems, but it's mostly kind of bloat, and cost and making healthcare a commodity, rather than, you know, a public good or a human right. Public health has a crisis in not being strong enough, it's been disinvested, in broken down. And we thought there was a place for building capacity around engagement, helping people understand what's going on. And mobilizing new voices and new people to talk about vaccines to talk about health equity, build bridges, run events, reach people where they live. And so this, this partnership came up. And one thing I've wanted to point out just from our conversations along the way, and, and thinking about today, when the vaccine core partnership was set up as an idea was really run by academics, public health, kind of sciency minded people. And the idea was to build a core of trusted messengers, outreach workers who could engage in their communities, you know, people who know them who share experience, but it was really driven by this kind of institutional set of actors. And we knew immediately that wasn't going to work, if we were going to build a collaborative space for the benefit of people for the benefit of community organizations. And very particularly, to bring in folks who have not been involved in public health, we had to, we had to flip the power dynamic and make a space that was for community people. And Sam and I were talking just earlier, one of the proudest things for me about the collaborative we run is, you know, kind of the big academic medical centers, other health academics kind of don't get to talk at our meetings. We, we keep an open format, and we keep it friendly and inviting. But we've never invited them to talk. And so the highlights come from information coming from public health and others directly to inform and create an interface for someone who runs a kind of block size nonprofit, to speak directly with the Department of Public Health asked questions of their epidemiology, challenge, what's missing, you know, improve the way that they're communicating. But then the other part of the meeting is just to highlight innovation, successes, failures, and, you know, building a collaborative from from that direction. And so in that, in that space, I would love Sam to talk about how it's been useful. We built a collaborative based on equity concerns based on, you know, making space for voices that have been excluded, and building capacity, which meant that some of these essential workers were in our meetings, people who were new to public health, might not have even seen themselves as essential workers, but then had to come that and so we had a place of kind of problem solving, very open, you know, dialogue about racial and other inequities in our city. And then a focus on solutions that were coming from this new new set of voices, you know, public health and healthcare has really failed, right? We've been failing in health equity forever. And the pandemic just made it a little more bright, a little more noticeable. And to push back on that we needed new voices. And so that's, that's the collaborative we've created. And we're still, you know, still running.
Yeah, maybe I'll give an example. How this would actually function is I would just go to Evans meetings and just listened to what they were talking about. And it was we had an agreement that was all in background if they wanted to use it. If our newsrooms wanted to use it, they had to call the people that had spoken in those meetings to get them to tell him again. But for me And for our group was really helpful just here. I mean, these were largely essential workers giving vaccines, other essential workers and vaccines to communities too. And it was really helpful for us just to hear what their priorities were on a day to day basis to hear what they were asking public officials, and how we line up with what we were asking public officials. I think one of the best examples of how we adjusted coverage in our group compared to how those outside of the collaborative were covering things was when you remember that there was a targeted vaccine dispersal in a number of neighborhoods is called Protect Chicago plus. And there was a story in the tribune about all the Facebook groups that would like go out, and they'd help you figure out like, oh, well, England's got some slots. If you're really desperate for a vaccine, you can go down to Englewood and get one. And it was seen as sort of like a resourceful thing. And people are being like really clever about like finding vaccines when it was hard to get one. And for the practical standpoint of how public health was doing, affected how the communities were affected, like we came to your group, and just getting a lot to ask you guys were already talking about that, and how that sort of narrative was affecting the decisions that people were making, and how it was affecting them community itself. I mean, how maybe you better to describe like how you guys were? Well,
yeah, I mean, the, how are we thinking about it? We were, we were asking community partners to, to give, you know, to be involved in the work of outreach, someone like me has serious limits, you know, I'm a medical doctor, I'm a nice person, I can communicate reasonably well. But I'm not a very trusted entity. You know, I represent institutions that have impossible histories. And so what we asked is for people to come up with solutions and come with suggestions, and then when they were problems to voice them out. And let us kind of amplify, we would often we did weekly meetings, we're still doing weekly meetings, sometimes 100 120 Different people in the room. But as you know, the city's got good plans, the protection Cago plan to get vaccines more equitably out to neighborhoods, because they were more vulnerable is a fine plan. But it was it was too small, it rolled out very slowly. And unless there were community partnerships, it didn't actually work. And so we were placed where people could say it didn't work for these reasons. We're seeing people from the north suburbs who are coming in and claiming they're in Englewood residents. We're, we're, we're noticing, you know, the hours don't work, ways of scheduling don't work. If it's all online. That's, that's no good. We need someone to help elders or people who are over on the tech divide. So very practical, sort of quick moving problem solving. And I think that that I hope that was helpful to disrupting a narrative, which tends to, you know, be a little more forces itself to be positive and kind of describe these things as phenomena, but not actually kind of see what's going on and where the gaps
are. So someone just do a quick, who's in the collaborative, like, what do you have to list all 20? This is not, this is not a test. But if you want to just give us
from WBEZ in WCW. On a large side, down to Lake City Bureau is now a member of UGA as a member, struggle reporter Illinois Latino news. La Raza, we do about maybe 30 to a quarter of our content is now in Spanish. And is a large range of newsrooms that cover a broad section of the city, but they cover I mean, we reach I think 12 million, but it's it's we've reached 5 million by being together without being together, each individual newsroom does an audience not nearly that's
Evan there was one quick question. I mean, you come from outside journalism, and and we, you know, healthcare is not viewed as being an existential crisis, the way people talk about journalism. So you've decided to collaborate as well. What's the impetus to collaborate? What's the benefit to collaborating? Yeah, in an industry outside of ours, give us the outside?
Right? Well, I really appreciate that framing. And I kind of rambled on it before but American Healthcare is in crisis in terms of outcomes. And in terms of equity, right? There is no plan in American healthcare to do equitable work. We spend twice as much as other developed countries, our outcomes are worse. That's, you know, that's a crisis. Public Health, like I was saying is, is has been diminished. There's much lack of trust, there's a lot of lack of capacity. It's a weakened institution, and maybe we'll see some change in that. But in terms of this, you know, this moment and this problem of helping people who've been, you know, historically mistreated, currently mistreated, who may be sicker to begin with, we're not connected to health care, public health, health care, academic institutions, other high minded people really haven't been able to reach people that haven't the outcomes. are really clear. So there's a crisis in terms of actually implementing to the benefit of people who are more in need to push back on these inequities. And so we we knew we had a chance to bring in, you know, new voices, new organizations, and to build a structure both with like training and learning, also, with Philanthropy Partners to get, you know, money out to do mobilization work for exactly what healthcare can't do, which is to reach people who don't trust us who don't be for good reason, don't believe in, you know, how what we're doing. You know, that elements of story of, you know, a neighborhood that says, you've neglected my neighborhood for generations. Now, you want me to take a shot today, that was just discovered. That's a gap. I can't really bridge easily. But others can write and others others can. So our crisis is really around lack of representation of really good innovation and capacity that has not seen itself in public health. And I think now, the story I'm counting on is, remember, you know, public health and health institutions remember what you couldn't do. And remember what was what was accomplished by people you just met. And let's not let go of these collaborations or will fall back to the patterns we were in, I'll give just like very brief story. There were rollouts in, in Englewood, and in backup, the yards, both had the same clinical anchor the same health system. In Englewood, they really didn't have much in terms of community touch and groups that help mobilize and spread the word. in back of the yards, we got lucky and found some collaborators. And the most effective was a group called increased peace. I don't know if folks know increase the peace is one of the tremendous violence prevention outreach organizations in the city. So we are collaborative covenant. It's a great yeah, so world class universe of violence prevention, they hadn't thought about public health, it took literally a day to train a little the outreach workers to talk about vaccines to help people get vaccination. And while the Englewood cluster lag, in terms of filling slots, increased, the piece got us to like 90% of available vaccines slots filled. Because they already they were already known, they were already trusted to a degree, the transition from talking about, you know, interpersonal violence and guns to talking about vaccines was like was trivial. And it moved at lightning speed. And so we need more of that. So
We covered that. And that was a really successful story for us, because we started distributed to all these other neighborhoods, and they started saying, like, oh, we could do that here, too. Like, this is something we didn't even know about. I mean, pushing for solutions journalism to you didn't even know the solution was an option. So there's a story that the cloud was picked up and started pushing our brother. Now let's do
We've got one question from virtual attendees. And the question is mostly directed toward Sam, some of your experience probably just is, how would you what would you say to someone else who wants to start something like solving for Chicago in another city or state, obviously, like what Alden talked about earlier is how there's deep roots of partnership in Chicago that are not easily replicated, but what sort of tips might you give to someone trying to start something like this up?
Also, the first thing I did was called all that. And I mean, yeah, figuring out what I mean, figure out what the historical context is first, like, what do people try? What are they like doing? What are the systems that work? I mean, this isn't the audience. I call this, it's you. And like, she told me about how pro publica like already, people already participate in cloud groups. They get share content from publica, they have preconceptions about how they like it to be delivered, how they like to be formatted, what kind of relationship they want to have with the newsroom. Like they have expectations already about how they want to work with others understand what those expectations are, before you start having all the other conversations. And it takes some time. That time was something that we fought to have them paid off like it was, the relationship was stronger, because we understood where people were starting from. And I think like, I can't go much farther beyond that for you until you know, what's the local context for you first? What what are the existing relationships? And how can you build on those relationships into something?
Anyone in the audience questions for the panel? Stand up, talk loud.
Can you talk a little bit about like We meet twice a month? Are you talking about everything everyone's working on? Are you being selective about these are our focus areas where we're trying to collaborate like, and then and then are you sharing all your stories or they're just some stories that you're sharing? How does it work?
For us, we're
sharing all of our stories.
And on that topic, they love that topic.
So there's a specific topic Okay, so central workers and now what is it now?
Now it's called the path forward, which is essentially like what's so what are the ongoing issues for essential workers and others affected by COVID, particularly around equity issues. I mean, our meetings were a mix of things, we tried to break up the cadence. So that half of it, half the time was spent on business issues, we were making sure that like, trying to lift all boats here, like WBEZ is a much more competent newsroom on a number of things, and some of our others. So making sure we're devoting some time just to making sure that like, we're lifting all boats, whether it's like newsletter, trainings, whatever it may be, just to make sure that everyone can participate. And they're working at full capacity to the best of their ability. And then other times on the editorial side, we would Yeah, we'd be talking about stories, what we're working on what we've just published, where we could see it going next. And sometimes we bring in guests. You know, one of the important questions for us when the vaccines were going out was that decision making process about taking the vaccine. And we knew that news was like part of that, but we didn't know what. And so we brought it in Evans, colleague massives come in and talk about what they understood as a decision making process, like people are going to take some action based on things they read in the news. But it's not just that news is part of that decision. To understand for us, like walking, what is our role in that conversation? What are all the other pieces sort of at play? We were it was great to be able to reach out and have a doctor come in and and talk about that, that experience and what what role we play and like someone's bigger decisions and bigger life and the information they're looking for.
Curious just thinking forward. And Emma, you were talking about relying on community groups to increase trust, as you're going forward with this practice and potentially looking at other projects? How are you thinking about partnering with groups on the ground, maybe even about restoring trust in the media writ large? Because that, obviously, is a problem. And I think having this collaborative, the all of these individual outlets who have trusted audiences are great, like, how do you improve on that? Or how do you more deeply engage with communities? That's
a good position?
Yeah, I mean, we're trying to work on a problem. Now. I mean, the problems that have come out of COVID is sort of fractured to like everyone's problems are going in different directions. So I mean, someone may have housing problems, someone may have like concerns about like academics for their kids now, because of it like it's, it's going off in a number of different directions. We're at the point now, where we're going back to some of that square one engagement work just to like reconnect with people on say, like, what are the top concerns? Like, what are you worried about? Where are things going? So that we know like, do we keep working with Adam? Do we find other groups that are in similar positions? Like, do we need a tenants rights group, because housing is a big concern, like we need to go back and just reconnect with people. And that's what we're doing right now. And hearing from people what their big concerns are. And I mean, to be honest, we did one round of surveys, and we're going to start doing more engaging work from there. One of the things I was surprised to hear was like, a lot of people change jobs, and a lot of people change jobs, particularly essential workers, because they were looking for something safer. That was still like workplace today, if he was still a really high concern for people in a way that I really didn't realize, I don't think our club really realized that there was a lot of people taking action still, like big actions, but like the word about things like workplace safe, and that like for essential workers, that a lot of them had deep concerns about how their kids were doing academically, because they had to work while their kids were hungry at school. And that was a huge concern for the parents, too. So we're trying to figure out right now we connect with, how do we like, Are these people? Are you organized or not? Like, how do we connect with them? And how do
I add one thing I wanted to bring up, when we're not when Partners in Health came to manage this nation, you know, collaborative, and flipped the power dynamic to make it focused on community groups to make it focused on people. So far, not part of public health, we opened our meetings to everyone, no restrictions, you don't even need an invitation. We spread it wide. And both our main collaborative meeting and then we also run what we call a learning community, which is for kind of people to get updates on COVID stuff on this public health issue. It's real issues like racism, and housing and health. And that's, I think that's been part of the magic is making it fully, fully open. I don't know how that might function in a in a news, you know, in a journalism environment. But we didn't and couldn't have predicted who would come and who would be, you know, kind of helpful in driving the conversation. But part of what makes it work is it's entirely well mediated, moderated and structured but fully open. And that's, that's allowed things we could have never expected. And maybe there's a place for that kind of, like talk about the trust building aspect. That's part of how we've done it like you want to see what we're doing. Come and join you remember, because you say you're a member. And that's been I think, really, really helpful.
Just Just to piggyback on that. I think the conversation is happening even outside of the sense of collaboration. I think the industry itself is starting to ask, you know, how better do we serve people? Part of it is a function of survival, right? We need eyeballs on our on our web pages. We need people to buy our memberships, you know, so let's engage with people to get a sense of what it is that they're missing what it is they want from us. And then for I can public interest newsroom. You know, we're also doing a self check on Well, we've prepared ourselves to be this public minded, public oriented newsroom. So how really well, are we serving that? Regardless of what monetary benefit might come from that, but just Are we really living up to our goals and ideals. And so, you know, we just created a new chief audience officer to kind of lead an effort for us to be much more thoughtful around how we're engaging with people, how we're understanding what they want from us, and how best we can deliver on
to where we are at a time that I just want to take off my moderator and put on my neck foundation after one second and say, We were one of the funders of the acquisition of Chicago Sun Times. And one of the things that makes this project exciting for all of us is to have someone really at the top of immediate market who's not just willing to collaborate, but it's been a leader in collaboration in the city for a long time. I know a lot of us are excited to see what happens with with this combined organization and what it can do to really inspire more collaborations at Chicago. So excited about that. Thank you