Golden Insights: Lessons from Election SOS Newsrooms
With any initiative Hearken does, we do our best to make time for reflection. It can be tough to do it — being reactive to incoming requests and planning for the future is constantly tugging at any blocked out time to just process, think, and learn.
But it’s always, always worth it.
We spent January reading through the reflections of nearly a dozen newsrooms who participated in our month-long Election SOS training program in 2022. This program is an iteration on our “Engaged Elections” training we offered in 2020, the goal being to help newsrooms center their elections and politics coverage on the communities they intend to serve, rather than on candidates or politicians.
We supported newsrooms as a cohort in a four-part workshop series that helped them develop their mission statement for political coverage, build a stakeholder map for whom they hoped to reach and serve, and create a strategy and metrics around engaging those communities.
In 2022, we worked with the following newsrooms:
- PBS SoCal | KCET
- WSHU Public Radio
- Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Cicero Independiente
- Nuestro Estado
- Santa Cruz Local
- El Tecolote
- The Haitian Times
- Atlanta Voice
- WFPL News
- Shasta Scout
The greatest part of programs like these, in our opinion, is the three-way learning: there’s what newsrooms learn from the instructors / facilitators, what newsrooms learn from each other, and what we learn from the newsrooms. It’s an exhilarating love triangle.
What Newsrooms Learned From Election SOS
We’re thrilled to say that newsroom staff who went through our program found a ton of value in it. They told us the training helped them in the following ways:
- Facilitated a shift in their broader editorial approach to elections coverage (and beyond)
- Helped them to establish and streamline processes for more efficient and effective work
- They were able to identify and experiment with ways to address previously unsatisfied community content and delivery needs
- Increased the public perception of trustworthiness and credibility for the newsroom
- Increased funding and made other gains towards business goals
- Formed new partnerships with other community organizations and news outlets
- Resulted in greater alignment and communication internally
- Increased utility of content through greater relevance, representation, and accessibility
- Increased civic engagement as a result of access to useful & relevant information
- Increased trust, confidence or deeper relationships between newsrooms and communities
Whew! We’re so proud that our program was able to foster that broad range of growth and outcomes.
What We Learned From These Newsrooms
Just as exciting to us is what we learned from these newsrooms. We know there are infinite ways that newsrooms can put engagement and principles into practice, and with those experiments and experiences there are always golden lessons to be learned.
For the love of learning and for the love of the effort and brilliance brought to bear by these newsrooms and their staff, we feel compelled to share some of the favorite insights we learned, many of which don’t have to do directly with engagement.