October in PIN newsrooms: New stories, new angles, and new ways to connect

Joellen Easton -


 Looking at your work in October, I'm struck by a trend:

Increasingly, newsrooms are finding value in their networks of sources by leveraging what PIN can do uniquely well: finding new story angles, collecting story tips, bringing new voices to your reporting, offering portraits of what's happening in a community, convening people to tell their own story, and bridging the gap between online engagement and reaching sources either in person or via mobile.  And that's what a broad and diverse source base has the power to do.

Speaking of broad and diverse, you're also recruiting sources in new and creative ways.  Marketplace analyst Angela Kim is going in the field with reporters, recruiting sources alongside interviews.  At WWOZ Briana Prevost and her team of volunteers are recruiting new sources alongside music and community events.  In St. Louis Linda Lockhart and Sydney Meyer are convening an ambitious series of conversations around election questions, recruiting sources in the process.  WNYC and California Watch are using SMS outreach to bridge the language gap.  OPB is using LibrariUS to recruit new and diverse sources.  By placing a single PIN signup link on a single high-traffic and topical webpage, WNYC gained a consistent flow of new sources. 

Read on for the national scan.



Changing Gears LJC

Sources getting new stories on our radar

incubator_kitchens.jpgChanging Gears was able to cover several stories in the last month that only made it onto our radar through PIN.

We covered the phenomenon of temporary staffing agencies in the manufacturing industry needing more job seekers, while many still think there are no jobs available in manufacturing. This was explained and sourced by a PIN source outside of Changing Gears' network -- thanks for sharing!

Another PIN source sent us a tip that Detroit Metro Airport is experimenting with growing biofuels on the premises, and we covered it in this story. For one of our partner newsrooms, Michigan Radio, we were able to find a PIN source that could share the real reason Ford Motor company is not competitive in China today. He was the first Ford employee in China, and said it all boiled down to hats.

PIN sources also rounded out stories on business incubators, grassroots business incubators, and advanced batteries.

At right: Michelle Koles makes lunches at the Can Do Kitchen, one of the smaller organizations getting into business "incubating."  (Sarah Alvarez)

The Lens/WWOZ

Outreach at WWOZ public events getting strong response

Response for PIN at all the WWOZ specific outreach events has been phenomenal! Once we get people into what PIN is, and what our two entities are trying to accomplish, they really seem interested in our venture. Getting responses to our queries has been a little slow, but we do have some responses to the subject we actually weren't sure how people would respond to - second lines. I am writing a blog post analyzing sources' responses to this query to put up on our site hopefully by next week.  So far, we have recruited over a hundred sources, and will hopefully recruit more from our outreach efforts coming up in November! (Briana Prevost)

Fronteras: The Changing America Desk LJC

Getting to know an undercovered immigrant community

congo_comm_t600.JPGIn October, Fronteras profiled an immigrant community in Arizona that’s never received much attention: refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They welcomed us into their community meeting, and to their lively church services. They told of the hardships they faced in their homeland, and of quiet but long-standing connections between Arizona and the Congo. And the president of their community organization shared his hope that immigrants from the Congo can become aware of and engaged in important civic matters in their new country. Check out the story here (three members at right). 

We also partnered on two queries with fellow PIN partner Not In Our Town, a documentary group profiling people who fight hate crimes. We received a fascinating array of responses, as people shared about if and how they feel safe and accepted in their community. (Nick Blumberg)

St. Louis Beacon and Nine Network

Going to fans for help covering the World Series

PIN_source_Rodney_Cook_Halloween1030.jpgOur best PIN-informed work in October came from insight shared by sources on the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series victory, followed by the surprise retirement announcement of Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa, and Halloween traditions in St. Louis. I'd like to add a special thanks to PIN pal Lee Hill at KCFR, for helping me get started on the Series query.  Once again, the PIN helped us gain insight quickly for these stories. In the case of Halloween, the unexpected responses took reporter Kristen Hare in an unanticipated direction in her reporting to tell the story of a St. Louis Halloweed tradition. (PIN source Rodney Cook at left).  (Linda Lockhart)

Community forums to prep for election coverage, portraits of youths at risk

st_louis_vote_convo.pngNine Network, the Beacon and St. Louis Public Radio have partnered to produce a series of community forums around St. Louis city and county, asking: “What is important to you in this coming election? What are you talking about with your friends and family? And how can we help the candidates hear your voice?”  Linda Lockhart invited more than 300 sources to the conversations, and 28 sources chose to attend one of the conversation meetings, in addition to other attendees.  The picture from our flyer is at right. 

The conversations will conclude in early November, and they are informing us of what people in the community want to know about elections. We are finding key themes: People want more local coverage. They did not know enough about the local races. They want to know how National issues directly effect their jobs, families and neighborhoods. 


They want  the money trail followed (who contributes $ and how does that effect the candidate votes). They want stories of the changing American Dream (work hard and you will succeed). 

Channel 9 will look at the themes and decide on an action plan that reflects what the community wants to know.

PIN sources also contributed their insights in response to two queries about youths at risk, which then informed five on-air spots about youth homelessness, available resources, and substance abuse for our Youth at Risk project.  That's Marissa, one of the homeless youth featured in a spot, at right. (Sydney Meyer)



A simple strategy to understand a complicated issue

multiamerican.pngIn October SCPR's Multi-American blogger Leslie Berestein Rojas created a very nice series of pieces about families that include a mix of legal and undocumented immigrants. She’s written about the issue over the past year, but the arrest of an undocumented relative of President Obama served as a good news hook to solicit stories. I sent questions to people in California who had told us they were immigrants or had family members who were immigrants. Then I re-sent the questions to people nationwide who had said they were immigrants or who lived or worked with immigrants.  Here's the query about mixed-status families. 

Leslie Berestein Rojas quotes extensively from the sources in PIN who responded to the mixed status query. Some are quoted by name, others, are unnamed because they are talking about harboring people who are not permitted to be in the U.S.  This link aggregates the posts on a single web page. (Sharon McNary) 



Understanding what's happening: unemployment and cellphones in schools

Farai_greenespace.jpgPIN sources contributed to two main things in October: a live event hosted by Farai Chideya and a story for SchoolBook. Farai Chideya hosted WNYC's The Real Cost of Unemployment event at The Greene Space on October 19. The conversation focused on unequal unemployment rates, how it's been affecting people, how people are reacting to this, and what can people do to overcome this. Farai used anecdotes from Public Insight Network sources to support the dialogue.  For a story on a cell phone ban in New York Public Schools, our education reporter spoke to two PIN sources, a high school student and her mother, who helped inform a story about the city's cell phone ban for public schools.

I also did two things to help recruit more parents and educators into PIN: A while back, John and I created a texting campaign in English and Spanish. (You can text Schools or Escuelas to 30644.) I tweaked this to include information about SchoolBook, our collaboration with the New York Times around education reporting. The campaign ends with a recorded message with more details about the PIN. I made stickers asking people to text in which we stuck on hundreds of SchoolBook flyers. The next set of flyers should already have this information on it. Finally, PIN gained some real estate on the home page of SchoolBook.org. Just because of that one link, at least one person signs up each weekday. (Walyce Almeida)

California Watch / Center for Investigative Reporting

"O" stands for Outreach

In October, we focused on outreach and launching some Public Insight/Mobile Commons campaigns for California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting. CIR partnered with the San Francisco Film Society to hold a behind-the-scenes look at our investigations, and we had the opportunity to share with those who came the importance of PIN sources. We did sign-ups during (with Mobile Commons) and after (with sign-up cards) the event. We also launched two long-term campaigns, one in the eastern Coachella Valley and another in Maywood, California. Because these are Spanish-dominant communities where Internet access is limited, we've focused a lot of our attention on in-person interactions and text messaging. I've produced postcards with calls to action that are being distributed throughout the valley, and I'm in the process of creating a handy manual that residents in Maywood can use ... and features a call to action for potential new sources. Over the next few months, I have several events planned in these communities that I am either producing or attending in order to develop and maintain a fruitful relationship. Queries are being produced in English and Spanish. (Ashley Alvarado)


Training reporters on AIR, recruiting in the field, and a happy update from a source

PIN at Marketplace takes on several roles. Since I work with three programs (Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, Marketplace Money) and also three sub-projects within Marketplace (Marketplace Index, Freakonomics, Economy 4.0), PIN helps with feature stories to daily stories to breaking news. However, I am training reporters and producers to searching AIR themselves, so that frees me up for more foundational and exploratory journalism through PIN.

20111003_occupywallstreet_la7_23.jpgI started the month off by going out to Occupy Los Angeles with a reporter. We had a limited amount of time because the story was supposed to air that afternoon. While the reporter was out gathering audio, I went and shot photos for a slideshow and also sighned people up to be PIN sources. I found it really easy to go out with a reporter and sign people up for PIN. People saw we were working on a story and that immediately got individuals to spend time and chat with me.

Recently I shared with you about how Marketplace aired a series of voices from PIN who are from three different generations talking about the job market. In October, one of the PIN voices, Sondra Morin (below), found a job! She sent me this note:

20111103_morin_18.jpg"I wanted to send a note to you to say thank you for the Marketplace interview last month. It was rather wonderful to hear my story on American Public Media. I did also want to update you on my job hunt - I was offered, and accepted, a position yesterday with The Chicago Office of Tourism & Culture as their Development Coordinator. I do not know if the air time had anything to do with my current string of luck or - perhaps as we discussed - persistence in pursuit of a job one wants really can reap the most ideal results."

I immediately notified my Senior Producer and we just aired a follow-up interview with Sondra and Kai that you can listen to here.

Recently, I was asked by my managing editor to send monthly emails to the entire staff to update people on the queries I’m sending out and highlight the work I’m doing. I plan to also share factoids about PIN so people on staff can start thinking about how to better utilize PIN in their brainstorming, reporting, and storytelling. (Angela Kim)

Colorado Public Radio

Taking a step back to cover Occupy Wall Street protests

occupy_denver.jpgThe Occupy demonstrations have spread across the country, and around the world. CPR decided to explore the 'Occupy' method of protests by talking to people who've taken to the streets (or used another tactic) at some point to protest an issue. We asked via PIN, among other things, how they measured the impact of their efforts on the cause they stood up for and what they think about the Occupy movements. We heard from a politically diverse group of PIN respondents, including tea party supporters, and others with varying levels of experience with protests -- from marching with Occupy protesters in New York and Denver to rallying against the beating of Rodney King by police officers in Los Angeles in the 1990s, to those who used their pocketbook as a tool of protest.  Here's the story.  (Lee Hill)

MPR News

PIN helps drive MPR's new Big Story blog, and a series about tough choices

Our new Big Story blog takes an in-depth look at the top Minnesota story of the day. The blog is written by Paul Tosto and we’ve often been querying the PIN the night before to get sources and insights for the next day’s topic. For example, PIN helped the Big Story blog cover the 20th anniversary of a huge Halloween blizzard, student debt, banker views on extended aid for underwater mortgages, and the Minnesota employment picture.

video.pngThe "Forced to Choose" series is a several-months long project that involved PIN from the very start. Reporters are following up with PIN sources…getting ideas, questions to ask, and sometimes featuring them in their stories.  A few examples: this piece on whether or not libraries really provide a core service, this story on cuts to library services, and a story on the rising cost of renting.  My colleague Curtis Gilbert and I also made this video explaining rising property tax rates for the series (at right)…nothing to do with PIN, but it’s fun.

Our great pool of sources also helped provide depth to some quicker turnaround stories on bucking the national upward trend in suicide rates (Minnesota is holding steady) and on Minnesota's dropping median income.  PIN also helped us gather interesting context for a piece on the controversial issue of politics in the pulpit. (Molly Bloom)

OPB News

Growing diversity with LibrariUS, faces of Occupy Portland, new leads and angles

In October OPB launched a partnership with the state library system that helped us bring the LibrariUS widget to over 30 rural library web pages in Oregon. We’ve already seen the widget grow the diversity of our source pool! We’re also working on ways to deepen our relationships with certain libraries to create partnerships and new projects that will help us diversify the PIN.

opb_ows.jpgFor a piece on the Faces of Occupy Portland, we used a query to prepare us for on-the-ground coverage of protests in Portland.  Responses helped us better understand what questions we should be asking of protesters, and what they're thinking and feeling as they take to the streets. The query was also a tool for new PIN recruitment--while out and about in the heart of the protests, I could ask people to sign up for the PIN with a specific ask/issue in mind. Since so many of the protesters were internet connected, it seemed to work well.  Protester Cathy Sampson is at right.

A PIN source led us to a story about a creek's restoration that was not only an interesting environmental piece (first steelhead returned to restored creek) but also clued us in to how important that first fish and the creek restoration it symbolized is for her community.  We queried voters to help steer our reporter toward the issues that were most important in an upcoming election, and to find both voters who had already made up their mind about their primary vote as well as those who were still deciding.  Through PIN we also found unique voices that could provide a personal and real-world angle for a story about Oregon's plan to offer online health insurance starting in 2014 (a very wonky state policy issue). (Amanda Peacher)

Harvest Public Media LJC

Working with sources to BS-test myths and messages

tractor_dust_3.JPGTwo of our reports in the last month used what we learned from queries to get at the real story: One of our reporters was looking into whether or not a recent dispute over farm dust is addressing a real concern, so I created this query asking sources for their experiences with farm dust....and wrote this blog item after the EPA ended the speculation with an announcement. This blog item is an attempt at transparency, more collaboration with our readers, and breaking news. The reporter also wrote a blog item.  In advance of Food Day (October 24), we queried to find out if/how consumers are confused about messages about "good" and "bad" food.  Turns out, they're not so much confused as they are frustrated.  Here's the story.   (Peggy Lowe)



Joellen Easton
Public Insight Partners Manager, American Public Media
w: 213.621.3481 | c: 562.453.8883
e: jeaston@americanpublicmedia.org | Skype: joellen.easton
Be a news source | www.publicinsightnetwork.org

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