In April, APM launched three major initiatives that have been cooking for some time:
The redesgined PIN database (we are calling it AIR2 for now), rolling out newsroom-by-newsroom in April and May;
LibrariUS, an interactive tool to grow our source pool among low-income communities and other library users for all PIN newsrooms; and
http://pinsupport.org, a website for all partners that provides training materials, a conversation space, a place to ask technical questions, solicit advice from each other and APM, and report bugs.
Read on for more information and to see what's been doing in PIN newsrooms around the country. And don't miss the attached new WDET PIN promos -- they're a powerful new approach, and I hope we'll get to hear about how they've been received at PINCamp this week.
Partnering with libraries to find new sources and stories
Working with public libraries is a no-brainer. Libraries offer free computers (requisite for email querying), bring in people of backgrounds we lack in PIN, and have built the sort of trusted relationships with communities that we crave. So, we got a booth at the annual American Library Association conference last summer, where analyst Molly Bloom and software engineer Ryan Cavis recruited 450 librarians to PIN, and began a conversation that launched LibrariUS in April.
How are you using the library today? That’s the simple question we ask patrons and staff through a widget that any library can embed on its website. The answers people leave – from taking resume classes, to giving back to the institution that got him through high school, to mourning the loss of a public school system’s library program – provide us glimpses into the information and other needs of communities across the nation. We’ll be forwarding good local sources and story ideas to partner newsrooms for you to consider. (Melody Ng)
Contact Melody or go to http://pinsupport.org for more information about doing local libraries outreach.
Center for Investigative Reporting
Seismic safety coloring books and hopes for diverse PIN growth
In April, California Watch and CIR focused on the release and promotion of a 19-month investigation into seismic safety oversight at California's K–12 public schools. We partnered with the PIN team at KQED on a related query, but did not have much success with it. Meanwhile, we also published a coloring book to teach children about earthquake safety. The book was produced in English, Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese and included an ad in the same language as the book promoting the Public Insight Network. We are hopeful that this will help bring in new sources from various ethnicities. We also did a series of events to help promote earthquake safety. At each of these events, I spoke with parents and community members about the PIN -- and some were truly excited. That includes a Southern California community member who would like to have California Watch come to a meeting and talk about PIN. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. (Ashley Alvarado)
Why following sources long-term pays off in the end
This month I’d like to emphasize the value of staying in contact with sources over time. Doing so has paid off great dividends in our coverage of many issues. In both cases we’ve cultivated groups of people who trust us and will update us as their circumstances change.
Personal tragedy. Melody Ng had been in touch with PIN source Andrea Zander since 2010, and in APril Zander finally felt ready to share the experience of her son's death.
Economy. The impact of long-term relationships with PIN sources around economic issues comes through in these MinnEcon pieces on the legacy of loan modification, fewer kids being born during the recession, the unexpected family burdens of student loans that the graduates can't pay off, and the hard parts of slow job growth.
Natural disasters. Querying sources living in flood-prone areas many times over the years is helping us keep tabs on ongoing spring flood reports in our Minnesota Floods '11 Blog, and in our News Cut blog with these two posts about a family hoping their home will stay dry and another on what Minnesotans do when their neighborhood is flooded: go waterskiing in ditches, of course!
A simple gas price story becomes a creative audio/web experience with PIN
I'll close with an example of how PIN paired with creative reporting can turn mundane stories into something special. We asked people living in the exurbs how higher gas prices was affecting their decisions and their outlook on their futures. Sasha Aslanian joined one PIN source for his commute and asked others to call in during their commutes and leave messages describing them. These voices helped us see how some have come to regret decisions that no longer make sense in a down economy. (Molly Bloom)
The St. Louis Beacon and the Nine Network of Public Media
PIN driving local work on CPB-driven dropout crisis project
In April, we asked Do high school dropouts have an effect on you or your community? Nine is collecting stories, information from the community plus local contact names and organizations for a new project starting this summer called “American Graduate – Let’s Make It Happen!”. Recognizing a need to help students stay on the path to graduation, CPB, with participation from PBS, America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has announced an innovative new program, American Graduate, to combat the dropout crisis in this country. More about the project here. We will use information gathered through the PIN to help guide the beginning of our local work on the project and we will continue to use the PIN to gather information from the community as the project evolves and grows – it is a 2 year initative at this point.
Employment trends among seniors & an intimate look at assault victims' family
At the Beacon, we ran seven PIN-informed pieces in April, including a two-part report on older workers. Beacon reporter Kristen Hare sent me this note: "Hi, Linda, I'm working on a census story about people 65 and older, about 55 percent of them are still employed full time. Think you can dig up some PIN friends who are 65 and older and still working? A few true retirees would be good, too. Thank you PIN fairy!" A quick search of AIR, using the age
filter, turned up quite a few potential sources. Kirsten was able to interview several, and quote a few of them in two separate pieces. Here are parts one and two of the report. For this two-part report and other PIN-informed stories on earthquake safety, the rebuilding of a bridge, and tornado damage, we found that the PIN helped us find authentic voices, get ahead of the news, and identify stories we might otherwise have missed.
PIN also encouraged us to go deeper in the followup reporting on an assault/murder that left a woman injured and her husband dead; a reverend in the PIN suggested that the Beacon follow up beyond the basic reporting of other news organizations and helped connect us with the daughter of the assault victims. That suggestion led reporter Robert Joiner to file this report on the struggles of the Nguyens, a tight-knit Vietnamese immigrant family. (Linda Lockhart)
Burning mortgage papers, and PIN comes in handy for tax season
April was a busy month for PIN at Marketplace, with insights informing several stories about real estate (including this one about living mortgage free ) and health care (including this one about high-risk pools). The sources used in most of the stories about these topics came in through general queries I sent out in anticipation of the spring house-buying season and the year anniversary of the passage of health care reform. Those queries seeded the network with fresh, relevant responses that both helped inform thinking about coverage and enabled a quick turnaround on source requests when hard data on those topics was released.
However, no one show was influenced by PIN as deeply and in as many different ways the Marketplace Money tax show. Through a search of tax related queries I sent out in previous years, I found three different sources who had been audited for a story about the kindler gentler IRS of today. Through a query I found a tax ayer who was willing to play along with a little experiment we conducted comparing tax returns prepared by an accountant to tax returns prepared using Turbo Tax. It turned out that this man had voiced a commercial for Turbo Tax, but by the end of the experiment said he would never abandon his accountant. Finally, all of the tax questions featured in Getting Personal, Marketplace’s weekly call-in segment, came from PIN sources who had submitted tax questions, with questions about losing important personal documents, what to do with employer gifts, and how to avoid a tax penalty. (Alison Brody)
Detroit community meetings continue, sharing learnings with the audience
April saw the continuation of WDET’s community conversations. After February’s amazing meeting in Northwest Detroit, the staff decided to look at the inner ring suburb of Ferndale. About 20-25 residents showed up and talked with reporters about the issues that matter to them in their community. We emailed participants the next day to thank them for taking part, signing up with PIN and sharing what was heard. We also sent out a station membership email, featuring an edited version of the Ferndale response, a few days later (see below). We aired a debrief of the community event the morning after the event on WDET’s daily local talk show “The Craig Fahle Show” between Craig and Public Insight Analyst/Reporter Rob St. Mary. WDET has received great feedback to the community engagement sessions and plans to continue them through 2011 and beyond.
A new approach to PIN promotion & 1K sources three months ahead of schedule
In April, WDET launched new on-air PIN promos (they're attached to the Examples of on-air promos article on the Support site). The promos shift the appeal from a “help WDET” to “this is why I signed up… and you should too” model. We believe the personal appeal on the one-to-one level is important to gaining new sources because we believe the people we want to reach are probably more interested in their own ideas and community than helping a radio station with its reporting efforts. WDET is ultimately a secondary idea to future sources while their lives are primary. So, the new on-air messaging reflects that concept.
We also hit out first year source goal number about three months early. 1,000 plus sources have signed up since WDET brought PIN to Detroit back in July 2010. As we continue to grow, WDET has found fresh, unique perspectives and we continue to leverage that for compelling radio and online content. (Rob St. Mary)