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10 Tips For “Owning” An Issue: Take-Aways From StateImpact

The full StateImpact team in front of NPR's old HQ.

Becky Lettenberger / NPR

The full StateImpact team in front of NPR's old HQ.

Two years ago, StateImpact launched with a goal to train the next generation of public radio journalists. With an editorial lens focused on explaining state policy, our reporters would be as comfortable blogging, shooting pictures, using social media and creating data visualizations as they are reporting with a microphone.

As NPR winds down the two-year pilot that initiated the project and our states continue StateImpact on their own, it’s the network of reporters who now cover issues “StateImpact style” that is the project’s most important legacy.

We learned a lot from StateImpact — both at NPR and at our partner stations. If you’re thinking of starting a similar project, or just refocusing your newsroom, here are our top takeaways. Continue reading

Network News: November 12 – 18

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Network News: October 22-28

Adapting to a Sideways World

Analytics show that more and more readers are coming to our content sideways, increasingly through social media.

What does this mean?

It is time to be smarter about how we go about engaging with our core communities. To that end, we held an all-team teleconference last week to to discuss strategies for engaging our audiences and managing our workflow. We’ll be rolling out a series of trainings and webinars, starting next week, to help us develop and refine these techniques by:

  1. Defining our core communities.
  2. Learning more about how they get their news.
  3. Adjusting how we engage, and
  4. Adapting our workflow.

In the meantime, though, here are some things to start thinking about:

Remember that engaging with your core communities requires using multiple platforms and using a multi-directional approach.

  • Where do your core communities get news about your beat? Ask around when meeting with a source or influencer. Are there listservs you should be aware of? Twitter chats? Facebook groups? Maximize every interaction to make sure that we are getting plugged into the right networks.
  • If you aren’t doing it already, use social media for more than just content distribution. Share others’ good work. Cultivate sources. Report in real time with facts, quotes and images. Engage in and start conversations. You’ll be surprised how much it can help inform and enrich your efforts–and broaden your reach.

Continue reading

Network News: August 13-19

In the Spotlight: Guest Blogging Pays off in Florida

StateImpact Florida was the first state to take our new guest blogging tools, developed last month, for a spin. In their recent series, “The Secret Lives of Students,” the Florida team accepted submissions from area students about issues they selected in a summer learning program. Reporter Sarah Gonzalez describes the team’s experiences with their young guest bloggers below.

From Sarah Gonzalez:

Sarah Gonzalez /StateImpact Florida

Over the summer break, StateImpact Florida partnered up with Breakthrough Miami, which offers summer school classes to students considered “at risk.” We asked the elementary, middle and high school students to write about any school topic they wanted to, as either a short news article or an opinion piece. 

We agreed that StateImpact Florida would edit the articles, but not the opinion pieces. Since we were often hearing from elementary-aged children, we decided not to correct any spelling or grammar. The posts really remained in their voices. We did, however, reserve the right not to post blogs, and to make cuts if something they wrote was factually incorrect about Florida education. 

Continue reading

Network News: June 25 – July 1

In the Spotlight: Social Growth

Social media engage­ment continued it’s upward trend this week. In raw numbers, the number of people finding us through Facebook alone has grown by more than 400% over the past month.
What is working?

  1. Your self-contained posts are the most shareable, providing just enough context to position the first-timer while still providing the regular with new and interesting information.
  2. Posting to Facebook with gusto! A minor tip: Help your best posts stand out with a short intro, to encourage click through.  Continue reading

Network News: June 9-15, 2012

In The Spotlight

Molly Bloom

This week’s spotlight story comes from Molly Bloom of StateImpact Ohio. Although the piece first aired on June 8, it was #5 last week in terms of total visits. Exploring the pros and cons of computerized essay grading could have been a real snooze fest. But her humorous, irreverent approach made the piece lighthearted, interesting and fun. It also tackled an approach to grading that is rarely explored, yet is becoming more ubiquitous in schools around the country. All this and more helped it garner attention long after the original air date. Nice work, Molly.

Continue reading

Explaining Impact: NY’s Gay Marriage Vote Gives Us a Teachable Moment

Jonathon Robinson / Flickr

A sign at a rally for New York marriage equality.

Tonight, New York’s State Assembly approved same sex marriage rights by a vote of 33-29. A handful of Republicans joined all but one Democrat in passing the legislation, which, upon approval by the governor, will roughly double the number of Americans to which same sex marriage rights are available.

The news item struck me as a particularly good opportunity to coach you on how to think about government action stories that StateImpact will produce. To reiterate, our reporting mission is to focus on implications, effects, and dare I say — impact. That means, when a news event like New York’s same sex marriage vote happens, StateImpact bloggers should not write the “what happened” story. You can simply live tweet the “what happened” part for your community. And you can count on several other news outlets in your orbit to do the ‘what happened’ stuff. All you have to do for the ‘what happened’ story is simply write a sully lede, block quote the nut graph of someone else’s story and link to it.

Your StateImpact coverage should deliberately do something else. Do something deeper. Do something more contextual. Put the news — whether it’s the lege approving something, or a government leader taking some sort of action, or an important decision of some sort — in perspective.

The stories about the passage of same sex marriage were out. Then what? Some examples of the news organizations that did the “impact” stories well, and did them quickly. I hope it provides some inspiration and gets you thinking. Continue reading