August in PIN Newsrooms: Outreach innovation

Joellen Easton -

Even in August! 

I'm constantly impressed by the innovativeness of the journalists working on PIN.  PIN represents a community where innovation doesn't only mean new technology: It means new ways of asking questions, thinking who to ask them of, and being curious about new things.  

Innovation means taking a story that's been covered extensively and asking a question that sparks the imagination of a source or a reporter -- leading to fresh angles, such as The Beacon's Class series or MPR's State Fair coverage.  It means creating partnerships in your community that can help you do things you couldn't do before, like you'll see from the new PIN partners in New Orleans, a partnership of public radio cultural institution WWOZ and the investigative nonprofit The Lens.   

Innovation means, even in the hot, slow month of August, getting out there to meet with new sources, recruit new voices to work with your newsroom, and take a fresh look at how to deepen and diversify your source base.

Which brings me to this summer's outreach challenge, in which we were looking for innovative outreach efforts.  We heard about outreach efforts from a number of partners.  SCPR formed an outreach committee to coordinate various station outreach efforts and make the message to listeners simpler.  CIR/California Watch held "Open Newsroom" events to meet readers and hear their ideas.  KQED launched a campaign to query San Francisco residents about the issues that matter to them, including SMS, web outreach and wrapping a car in signs and driving around San Francisco, queuing people up for interviews.  Marketplace's reporters are getting more involved in leveraging their own social media profiles to spread the word about queries.  MPR recruited sources at the Minnesota State Fair, and at an American Legion convention in the Twin Cities. 

Everyone's efforts are helping to grow the source base, but the outreach challenge goes to KQED for their inventive approach that's making PIN outreach a part of newsroom-wide outreach.  Congrats, Amanda and team!  Expect a bag of PIN pins in the mail....




"Talk, text or type" campaign yielding election insights and new sources

KQED_mobile_election_unit_2.jpgFor the upcoming San Francisco mayor's race, KQED decided to take the temperature of San Francisco citizens - what do they want from their next mayor, what are the problems they encounter living in the city, what issues unite the city and what issues are only important to certain neighborhoods. PIN is at the center of this effort.

In addition to creating a PIN query and a mobile text campaign, we decided to mix things up with a  "mobile election unit." The unit consists of a team of KQED reporters who arrive en masse (in a handy-dandy Scion covered with "Let Your Voice Be Heard" posters) and ask folks what it is that they want the next mayor to focus on in their neighborhood. We take people's photos and ask them for an email address so that we can follow up with them.  I will follow up with them and thank them for participating, let them know when the whole thing goes live, and invite them to join PIN.

KQED_flyer_photo.jpgI'm not sure how many new sources we'll end up with, but our goal is get 150 people from the on-the-street reporting and lots more from the text campaign. I'm calling the varied outreach a "talk, text, or type" effort. People have many different ways of participating with us and hopefully that will drive new people to join PIN.

As far as building diversity - we're actively seeking a cross section of residents. Last week in the Richmond district, I worked with a translator because many residents there speak Cantonese.

For our product, reporting will be incorporated into six features that will air across two weeks. Online, we'll create a text version of the stories and create multimedia incorporating photos. We're also brainstorming on fun ways to visually represent the different issues mentioned so users will know at a glance what's important to what district.

And here's something that surprised me: There was a moment last weekend when we had three people lining up to be interviewed. Very cool! I'm also surprised how few people have texted - we're going to invest in some Facebook ads to see if that will help drive some folks to the SMS campaign. But we're very open to suggestions! (Amanda Stupi)

Nine Network and the St. Louis Beacon

Informing The Beacon's ongoing Class series

classpaplanus250jn.jpgIn August we ran ten PIN-informed stories, including one two-part report featuring PIN source Chris Paplanus (right), an ex-Chrysler worker who we first met when he responded to a query last December about unemployment. Reporter Mary Delach Leonard returned to Paplanus to see how he's doing as the nation struggles to achieve economic recovery. The first story (and slideshow) explores Paplanus' reflections as an iconic Chrysler landmark falls, and the second story looks forward as he works two jobs to make ends meet.  Both pieces contribute to The Beacon's ongoing series, "Class: The Great Divide."

Another great PIN-influenced report, also a part of the zclass series, came from the query asking sources to discuss what it means to them to ask or be asked a mostly St. Louis question: Where did you go to high school?  The question is regarded both fondly, as a St. Louis thing, or as the seven words that sum up everything wrong with St. Louis. Beacon reporter Kristen Hare prepared a terrific report with the help of PIN sources. (Linda Lockhart)

Nine Network querying helps to define and add context to projects

In August we issued two queries, one about relationships between mothers in prison and their children, and the other about youth at risk.  The prison query is helping us gather a screening panel in advance of the film "Troop 1500," about a Girl Scout troop made solely of girls whose mothers are in prison.  Through the query we found two excellent sources to speak on the panel at our upcoming screening of the film: A formerly-incarcerated woman and her son, now 23. The son recalls his mother being taken away by the police.  Her relationship with her son and family was severely hurt and she has struggled to rebuild it.  The youth at risk query asked sources to share their reactions to the phrase "youth at risk" -- and their responses helped us choose a name and logo for the project. From the comments the director of the project and staff concluded that a positive note had to be added to the project name to encourage less negative feelings. The name we chose was: Youth at Risk: Finding Solutions Together. (Sydney Meyer)

Changing Gears

If not record setting, pretty darn close

jamesfoster.jpgAugust was a big month for us at Changing Gears. I think we've found our groove and the reporters and I are able to work together easily to integrate PIN sources into our coverage.  We had two stories last month (out of five) that were informed by PIN sources. Our first story, about foreclosures and the property maintenance industry that has resulted from lots of foreclosures, was inspired and built around a PIN source.  The next week, we ran our first non-narrated piece on people forced by a tough economy to try a "Plan B." That story got great feedback.  (At left, James Foster's Plan B was to become a stay-at-home dad),  Two of the three people were found through a PIN query, and the other called one of our reporters directly.  (The reporter thinks it's because of the PIN promos she's been hearing on the air.)

We also unveiled a new feature called "six word stories." MPR's Paul Tosto gave me the idea for a query, and we turned it into an audio piece. People love it, and we've gotten about 35 new folks into the network this way. It's very little work and high reward. So far, one on personal plan B and the other on personal housing stories.  And to top it off, we hit 700 sources! (Sarah Alvarez)

The Lens and WWOZ, New Orleans

Introducing Insight New Orleans and two new analysts

Briana_and_Maggie_small.jpgThe Lens and WWOZ recently launched the Gulf South hub of the Public Insight Network: Insight New Orleans.  (At right from left to right, Briana Prevost, analyst for WWOZ, and Maggie Calmes, analyst for The Lens, thinking deeply after lunch.)  We're working hard to bring voices from the Gulf South to participate as new sources in PIN. We announced our partnership publicly in an on-air segment on WWOZ called "Taking it to the Streets,” at an open discussion about New Orleans public education hosted by The Lens on August 25, and via WWOZ and The Lens’ websites, newsletters, and social media.

We're planning community engagement opportunities to find a wider range of community voices and leaders.  Next up: an event at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  On the query front, we're each focusing on things specific to our organizations and the types of issues that would be relevant to our respective audiences, but are still operating in tandem. For example, The Lens is structuring an entirely new charter school initiative and has put out a query involving transparency and accountability within the charter school system of New Orleans, while WWOZ has formed a query around the dwindling funding for music and arts education in the public education system.

Both The Lens and WWOZ are excited about what this partnership can bring, and are eager to recruit some Gulf Coast southern voices into the greater network! (Briana Prevost and Maggie Calmes)

Southern California Public Radio

A new outreach committee helps unify efforts across the newsroom

KPCC_outreach_form.pngThis summer I’ve been working with the Outreach Committee that I helped create with many other departments here at KPCC.  After four of us attended an MLK Day street fair, we realized that our four messages were competing with each other and possibly confusing the public. We had messages about PIN, the forum performance space, Story Corps Griot project and a new hyperlocal website. Add in things like signing up new members and circulating program information, and you can get a garbled message.

We got to talking about how we could combine our outreach efforts in a way that helped all of us. We came up with a form that is both online and printed on a half-sheet of paper.  It’s a Google form embedded on a website page

It asks the public how they want to be involved with KPCC, to volunteer, to underwrite programming, to get our newsletter, and to be a news source for our reporters.  (A volunteer enters handwritten forms we collect into the Google form.)  Those who select the news source option are added to the network.  When I get the info of those who want to help our newsroom, I’ll upload them using the CSV uploader to AIR. 

This integrates PIN outreach into our overall public contact without diminishing the specific outreach I would otherwise do. It also means that my outreach efforts can benefit other parts of our company without sacrificing the news/revenue firewall. This is very new, so I don’t have numbers yet. (Sharon McNary)


Training reporters to search AIR, expand PIN query reach 

The S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating rallied the Marketplace staff along with APM PIN to create and send out queries over the August 6 weekend to help the week’s coverage for Marketplace Morning Report, Marketplace, and Marketplace Money. Along with sending out queries, relaying story ideas to editors, and providing sources for reporters, I produced a non-narrated piece for Marketplace that you can listen to here

In terms of outreach, I worked with show producers to get PIN mentioned on air so others can sign up to be a source. Also, I’ve been letting those on staff with robust social media connections to tweet and Facebook queries to expand our reach and expand into different networks.

I’ve continued to train reporters on staff on how to use PIN and how reporters can use PIN to get story ideas. It’s going to take a couple months for reporters to get used to it but I can already see they are beginning to understand how to expand the uses of PIN for Marketplace. (Angela Kim) 


MPR News

Hounds, goats, health, credit, and dropping out of college 

mpr_goats.jpgIn August we tapped the PIN to help us find more off-the-beaten path delights at the State Fair or to see old favorites in a new light. Playing off the Art Hounds concept, a group of “Fair Hounds” shed some insight on the Great Minnesota Get Together.  A selection: the goat exhibition, antique farm machines, fair ware hawkers, a 4-H musical revue, the fair's chief of police, and an expert canner.

We also made an interactive map where listeners could add their own favorites.  And also at the State Fair, we sold our first ever Art Hounds t-shirt (designed by a Hound and chosen at our Art Hounds t-shirt printing party).  

The PIN continues to be very useful for health care stories, including this one about how health care reform laws are changing the ways providers work.  We also teamed up with MPR News' Ground Level reporting project for their “Weigh In” series. They’re asking health care providers in rural Minnesota to answer a different question about their experiences every few weeks and are inviting others to join in.  The PIN helped us cover the stock market drop quickly while still presenting a variety of viewpoints and experiences, such as in these stories about Minnesotans' experiences with the stock market drop and their reactions.

Finally, the Network provided voices and first person accounts of people from across the country who talked about why they enrolled in college but didn't finish. Their responses were part of the online package accompanying an American RadioWorks documentary: "Some College, no degree."  (Molly Bloom)

Fronteras: The Changing America Desk

Helping residents of a sprawling city hear each other

KJZZ, the lead station in the Fronteras LJC and the home of its PIN journalist, used the network in August to find unheard voices in different communities within the city of Phoenix. It’s a sprawling place – over 500 square miles – and one with neighborhoods which often feel that they are overlooked. The PIN gave a wide variety of Phoenicians a chance to air their concerns and to share why they live where they live. Check out the series here. (Nick Blumberg)


Center for Investigative Reporting / California Watch

Slow news month = A good time for outreach

August means summer vacations in the California Watch-CIR newsroom, and that means fewer PIN queries. Nonetheless, we started off the month with a bang, also known as the California Watch–CIR Open Newsroom, an event during which our reporters and editors fan out to coffeehouses across the state to meet one on one with our readers and potential readers. Meghann Farnsworth, who manages our social media and distribution in addition to being the CIR PIN analyst, was especially effective in introducing the Public Insight Network to those who came out to meet her at her San Diego location. She signed up 18 people for the network that morning alone. Toward the end of the month, we focused on churning out story-related queries, starting with a follow-up query to a post we did earlier in the summer about safe water in schools. Among our other queries, we also did one on unrecognized tribes in hopes of telling new stories and bringing more Native Americans into PIN. We're working to get the query to members of the tribe featured in the story. (Ashley Alvarado)

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