July in PIN Newsrooms: An outreach challenge, playing with Storify, and getting flaks all hot and bothered

Joellen Easton -

This summer in PIN newsrooms we've pressed the flesh at 105 degrees, annoyed some PR folks (and then get them to love us), covered Carmageddon, and more.

Don't forget the summer outreach challenge!  This summer, consider what you've BEEN doing to recruit sources.  Now do something completely different, of course, keeping within the realm of PIN best practices.  At the end of August, tell me about your most creative outreach effort.  I'll pick a standout -- in either source recruitment, editorial impact or sheer genius -- and send the winner a bag of PIN pins. 

Last week I picked the brain of Matt Thompson at NPR's Argo Project about his experiences setting up challenges for Argo bloggers, and I have a few more ideas brewing for us.  More on that later this summer. 

Read on for your PIN colleagues' doings.




St. Louis Beacon and the Nine Network

Black history, neighborhoods and grading teachers

Everyone knows that teachers grade their students. But who should grade the teachers -- and how? The question is at the heart of a lot of education talk these days.  Reporter Dale Singer used insights from PIN sources in her exploration of the issue. Catherine Lux, a kindergarten teacher in the Ferguson-Florissant school district welcomes such visits from an administrator. Jeff Brown, the husband of a fourth-grade teacher and the parent of four children, said he believes parents should also be allowed to weigh in on teacher evaluations.  Elsewhere in the newsroom, a woman founds a museum to tell the stories of Black History and Culture in St. Louis, and recently changed the name to embrace a new approach.  A PIN source explores the museum for the Beacon.  PIN sources are also helping the Beacon profile the many faces of Old North St. Louis, an historic neighborhood.  This month the Beacon published the second article in the series.

Also, I started added this to my standard questions recently: 

    How did you receive this PIN query? 
         I received it by direct email.
         I saw it on the Beacon website.
         I saw it on another website.
         It was forwarded to me by a friend.
         Other (If you picked other, please explain.)

I find this very helpful for personal tracking. It's encouraging to me when I see that new sources come to the query from the Beacon site, in addition to existing sources who receive the Email Labs note. Today, a response was checked "other," and the source wrote that she saw it on LinkedIn. So I'm able to see how the various methods of outreach are working. (Linda Lockhart)

Engagement around women and youth-centered events

In July Nine Network queried about women's and girls' organizations, bringing in responses that told us about 17 community organizations, two of which will participate in a Sept. 1 Community Cinema screening by providing tables with information at the screening to promote participation in their groups.  We also asked about youth mental health as part of an awareness project concerning youth mental health, homelessness and substance abuse.  The initiative involves community conversations, and through PIN we found community members interested and willing to converse about these issues, which will to help us frame the project on-air and on-line.  (Sydney Meyer)

Southern California Public Radio

PIN shapes direction of reporting for grocer strike coverage

With the threat of a grocery workers strike in the near future, PIN helped shape KPCC reporters’ thinking about the changing grocery industry in Southern California, where shopping trends lead the nation. Workers at three large grocery chains struck for months in 2003, forcing shoppers to cross picket lines or make other food shopping choices.

The resulting series looks at the gains in market share by independent union and non-unionized chains that attract California’s Latino, Asian, immigrant and bargain-hunting customers, and the increasing irrelevance of the once-dominant chain grocery stores.  Stories in the series:

Supermarkets, workers fight old battles with new risks
Independent groceries thrive where “Big 3” couldn’t
The last of the independent unionized grocery stores in L.A.
Grocery wars in Southern California set precedent for the nation
Nobody wants a grocery strike, but does anybody want a deal?
We also created a slideshow and video.  

Finally, we’re focusing follow-up questions on grocery industry workers in all kinds of stores.  We’ve already heard from a top exec in a small upmarket chain of stores and from a former grocery bagger telling us about working conditions.  If a strike does occur, these and other sources will help us track labor actions and how other stores pick up even more customers.

Strong network of bicyclists helps KPCC get ahead on Carmageddon

KPCC got a head start on the most fun story angle on the planned mid-July weekend closure of Southern California’s 405 freeway, dubbed Carmageddon. Thanks to the large number of bicyclists in the network from a 2009 outreach project, we were the first mainstream media outlet to blog and report on a challenge by the Wolfpack Hustle’s elite cycling team to race a JetBlue publicity stunt flight 45 miles from Burbank to Long Beach (right). Joe Anthony, an Insight Network guy who blogs on bike commuting, tips us to the region’s bike-related stories. He got a seat on the Jet Blue plane, helped craft the rules, and Tweeted his progress in the race. (More posts here.)

Well in advance of the closure, we asked the public how they planned to avoid traffic tie-ups, and some of them were interviewed by our reporters. We asked for their Carmageddon six-word headlines, haikus, limericks or two-line poems, and our news anchors read a few on the air.

During the actual closure, we queried for real-time stories of traffic delays – responses from those were routed to our entire 405 closure coverage team of reporters, editors, producers, bloggers, on-air anchors and web writers. People mostly stayed off the roads, traffic was light, and the closure ended 15 hours early, so the same-day questions didn’t get much action. However, this was a good test of methods we might use in a more serious all-hands-on-deck news story like a fire or earthquake. (Sharon McNary)


Changing Gears

Blog fueled by PIN responses = a compelling regular feature: Your Story

Kim-Sapkowski-300x314.jpgSince we began working with PIN, we've found new ways to change the way stories about economics are told. We offer first person accounts of the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest in a regular segment called Your Story. Two standouts from the last week, "daycare economics" and "Is college worth it?" (right) both explore the hard choices people in our region are making every day.

Also in July, we took a road trip to five midwestern "company towns," places where the town economy, or identity, revolves around one company. We sent out a query asking people if they lived in one of these towns. A source from Kohler, WI made it on the air in this story about Kohler, Wisconsin.  A second source provided the pictures and the audio for a slideshow of Norwalk, OH. That slideshow really rounded out the coverage of how life in these places is changing.  This month our partner station, Michigan Radio, reported on the one year anniversary of a big local oil spill. Mark Brush did a great job of sharing a PIN source's account of the experience on the river.  (Sarah Alvarez)


Harvest Public Media

Introducing Peggy Lowe: Pressing the flesh in 105 degree heat!

PeggyLowemug_0.jpgSince I just started July 11, and I’m the first PIN type for Harvest, we have a newsworthy July.  Goal No. 1 is building up the numbers of sources in our database, so I’ve done two outreach events and have a third planned. To say that these have been grassroots efforts is to speak literally.

The first event was on July 14 at a coffee house in Iowa City, Iowa, where Harvest did a live talk show on Iowa Public Radio about the booming local food movement.  The second was at the Boone County Fair in Columbia, Missouri, where my booth was a dusty table next to the open cowboy bar named “Whoa Nelly.” I’m not kidding. The bar’s slogan was: “Good food, cold beer, stop in and say hay.” (see photo at right) And did I mention the 105-degree heat that day?  My third outreach event will be at the Farm Aid concert on Aug. 13, where we will be in a special exhibition space called “Homegrown Village.”

We’re also working on branding and promotion. We have named our PIN “Harvest Network,” in hopes of keeping our message simple. (I’m finding that I do as much explanation of just what our Local Journalism Center is, as what the Public Insight Network is.) We’ve ordered a large banner, four-color brochures, tear cards (from the APM template) and pens.  And...the new Harvest Network website launched August 4 -- check it out

Farm Aid query draws PR ire... and sparks a conversation

grandpabuchananjt8.jpgImmediately, we heard from an angry Farm Aid flack, who called the question "leading and biased" and she asked for an edit. We assured her that the query was simply meant to start a conversation and that it's a valid journalistic question. Family farms -- which Farm Aid advocates for -- produce very little of the U.S. food supply and we wanted to know if a charitable organization meant to shore up a questionable business model was a laudable goal.

So far, we've received 40 responses -- some emotional, some peeved at our query, all very personal. One source sent a picture of his late grandfather (pictured at left), the last farm owner in his family. I wrote this story, "Does Farm Aid Matter?"  from the responses.

Interestingly, the Farm Aid folks now love this story. They posted it on their Facebook page, and it generated 55 "likes" and 10 comments about the need for family farms. Overall, on Facebook and Twitter, the story’s been recommended 114 times.

I am also using the PIN feedback from this query to talk to folks who are attending the concert and their comments will be a part of my story that will be broadcast next week. These comments may also be used in a story I’m writing for the Kansas City Star for publication next week.  (Peggy Lowe)



Introducing Angela Kim, Marketplace's new PIN analyst

Angela_photo.JPGI started July 1 as the Marketplace's PIN Analyst, but I’m not new to Marketplace -- I was the sustainability producer for the last two years. This has been a month of training for me, learning how to effectively query, learning the different tools, and assessing the needs of Marketplace for the upcoming year. Also, Joellen and I conducted our first training for reporters to learn how to search the PIN. We held two sessions where reporters learned about AIR and how they can do effective searches to help them with their stories. This is a big change here at Marketplace because this will allow me to work on long-term projects that need PIN and start projects. I’m really excited about one of these new projects in the works: together with our web producer, I'm going to launch a PIN blog sometime in early September where I can start posting content that our sources contribute.

Also, this from Alison: "This story about bankruptcy law and second mortgages, surprisingly, features a PIN source. It’s about a provision in bankruptcy law that allows homeowners to eliminate one second mortgages. Producer Jennifer Collins asked me to find a homeowner who went through bankruptcy who also has a second mortgage. It was one of those queries that seemed too narrow and that we’d never find who we were looking for. Leif Madsen was one of the first people who answered the query and he was perfect for the story." (Angela Kim)


CIR/California Watch

Planning ahead, exploring Storify for publishing query responses

In July, our big query we one on marijuana laws, which we launched together with KQED on Mobile Commons and through PIN on e-mail. We've had 100 responses come in so far, but are yet to put something together on it. Meghann Farnsworth, our CIR analyst, is looking into ways to display the great reader suggestions on how to legislate marijuana; we'll likely use Storify. Otherwise it was a relatively slow month, as we focused on laying the groundwork for a larger PIN campaign we have planned (details to follow). (Ashley Alvarado)


iWatch News

Telling personal stories of health care, small business, and borrowing

WendellPotter.jpgIn a series of columns for iWatch News, former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter has been exposing well-kept secrets of the insurance industry and looking at how Americans are being impacted by health care reform. To get a better understanding of how the current health care climate is affecting small businesses, we put out a query asking business owners and employees to tell us about their experience obtaining health insurance. After receiving many rich insights, Potter focused one of his recent columns on Luke Peterschmidt, an entrepreneur and game designer from Pennsylvania, who was close to folding his business due to premiums that he couldn't afford. Peterschmidt's situation highlighted how employer-based health care may be stifling innovation among entrepreneurs fearful of losing their coverage if they took a chance on their ideas. Read Potter's columns in the coming weeks for more stories from Americans who are struggling to get the care they need.

For August, the iWatch Finance team will continue a new series called Borrower Nightmares, profiling consumers trapped in loans they couldn't afford or didn't understand. As part of the series, we launched a query asking folks to tell us their own credit horror story. Look for two stories based on experiences of PIN sources to be published in the coming weeks.  (Cole Goins)

Fronteras: The Changing Americas Desk

Planning a series on Phoenix's communities

divorce.jpgIn July, PIN helped us with two very different economy-related stories. Peter O’Dowd used it to find folks whose divorces had been affected by the recession, and discovered that the economy took its toll on love lives in very different ways. We also used the PIN to begin researching a series about how retirement has been changing in the Southwest over the past several years.

Our major PIN project in July was a series profiling different communities in Phoenix in advance of the mayoral election in late August. We used the network to find a great mix of residents, activists, experts, businesspeople, concerned citizens, and rabble-rousers. We’re putting the finishing touches on the series, to air the second week in August. It promises to dig into what Phoenix neighborhoods want from their city government and from their fellow Phoenicians, and tells some really remarkable stories. (Nick Blumberg)


A newsroom field trip to the Bronx

This month I brought the newsroom and community engagement department together on a South Bronx Field Trip. It’s an area we don’t report on as often and has unique characteristics such as a growing diverse population, a launch pad for cultural trends, and an example of how a community can deal with poverty. We were 18 people in total meeting up with local connectors that represented a different aspect of the Bronx from the arts to business development. Then we used our free time to meet people in the neighborhood, learn from them and sign them up for PIN. The outcome includes new sources, story ideas for WNYC news and The Brian Lehrer Show, as well as a new outlook on the Bronx. One of the local connectors promoted the PIN in their newsletter and this project piqued the interest of other people at WNYC. Soon, I’ll email everyone a link to a video documenting our field trip. (Walyce Almeida)

Miami Herald/WLRN

PIN-sources video and opinion features

Last Sunday we ran an opinion cover story about the debt deal made from PIN source comments. The online package included a video I created with comments from people in the network as well. I also did another PIN video about Jewish voters in South Florida reconsidering their presidential votes following President Obama's recent remarks on Israel-Palestine borders. And we found an interesting person for a story on pawn shops, who became the lead of the story.  (Deborah Acosta)


Talk shows and what's awesome

brady_carlson_headshot.jpgThe Exchange talked with Richard Louv about “nature deficit disorder” and how kids can spend more time outdoors. We gathered questions and experiences to share during the conversation with him.  In my regular appearance on Word of Mouth, we talked about how Google Plus might be an alternative for people who are dissatisfied with Facebook. PIN helped me find Facebook users – some satisfied, some not – and I used that knowledge to better talk about why people might consider switching away from Facebook

The Exchange looked at the proposed moratorium on new refugees in Manchester, and we shared experiences and questions from people who work with refugees in NH, or have direct experience with them. This is the beginning of a year-long look at immigration and refugees in NH, and we’re gearing up to come back to these folks and others in PIN to get more insight for future shows.  When Word of Mouth did a piece with the author of a new book on humiliation, a PIN source shared his own experience with being laid off and the humiliation it caused(Brady Carlson)

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