Denver Event - 2013 - Citizen Journalism and Civic Engagement

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  • KDMC Denver by Roberta F. King, vice president PR & MarketingAbout us:Michigan’s oldest community foundation, founded in 1922Endowment of $185 million, grants around $8 millionStaff of 23 people and we focus on education, the environment, neighborhoods and economic development. Large unrestricted fund and growing.
  • In 2008 Knight Foundation launched its Community Information Challenge and I was intrigued. I like free (or leveraged) money as much as anyone and saw in the Community Information Challenge the opportunity to create something new and different for information delivery AND also a great way to get people engaged in what was going on Grand Rapids. At the same time, you might remember news-gathering organizations everywhere, including Grand Rapids were laying off staff and reducing operations. We could see that what people were going to get for news would be mostly national, statewide or crime-related in nature. The local and neighborhood news, which we felt helped create community and a sense of place, would surely go by the wayside. When we saw the Knight Foundation’s matching funds opportunity, we were intrigued.
  • Under the grantmaking category of social enrichment, we found a place where our unrestricted and field of interest funds would be available. We didn’t know, though, what the possibilities for a media project could be, so we called our friends at the Community Media Center. The CMC has been a part of the media landscape in Grand Rapids for more than 25 years and we’ve funded a number of their projects. Its media empire includes a public radio station, a cable access TV station, a large historic theater located in an up and coming neighborhood and a very good web design creation service. And they’re a nonprofit. The CMC is very much focused on citizen and community engagement.
  • We called Laurie Cirivello at the CMC and told her we wanted to be her partner in a new media project. Yes, the Foundation called her with an offer of money. She was familiar with Knight’s funding of new media projects and met us with a great proposal: a hyperlocal multi-media news site for Grand Rapids with content generated by citizens.
  • What??!!I’d never heard of such a thing. Citizen reporting. Could this really happen? Would citizens report on news in their community? How would we police them? What if they said bad things? How could be trust them? Laurie reassured us that projects like this were emerging successfully across the US in larger communities and that Grand Rapids had all the potential to make it happen. Grand Rapids is lucky to have a very engaged citizenry and a kind of “Let’s make it happen here” spirit. The idea of letting the people determine the news is a complete reversal of the model of which we’d always known and we could only hope it would work. 
  • Our grant request for $128k over three years was approved in early 2009 and we launched in September of that same year. LAUNCHThe CMC did all the heavy lifting to design the civil discourse philosophy (no anonymous commenting) the training program for reporters and they built the site. The Community Foundation did the marketing and promotional work for the launch.Part of what made this project successful was a series of a dozen community meetings before The Rapidian even launched. We talked with people about what it was, how it would work, listened to their concerns and ideas. We also met with all the local media outlets to explain the project, we needed for them to see us as in enhancement to local news coverage, not a threat. Those meetings helped us build momentum for the launch day. The regular use of social media (when everyone jumped in and started a FB page or Twitter account) and the invention of The Rapidian happened at the same time. Social media drove our launch and still influences our success. Describe countdown clock and launchBuilt FB and Twitter followers, several thousand pre-launchPass around casebook
  • SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUCCESSMuch of the traffic at The Rapidian comes from Facebook links—about 40 percent, that’s down from about 45 percent in the prior year. More people are bookmarking the site and coming to us directly. Reporters are our best promoters, even though there is a built in audience at The Rapidian, new reporters and their subjects bring us new traffic via social networks.
  • CIVIC ENGAGEMENTThe Rapidian presented a leadership opportunity that was not without risk and it was different than other initiatives we’d launched in the past, which were mostly around child abuse and education. We’re pleased with the result. In pockets of Grand Rapids, from unexpected places citizen reporters have come to us with stories that would otherwise go untold. Stories by Dominican Sisters, kids in Grand Rapids’ predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, stories about the good work that nonprofits are doing, images by amateur photographers, environmentalists, musicians and arts organizations promoting everything from rain barrels to new music. The Rapidian is an eclectic snapshot of what our community cares about. CITIZEN GENERATED CONTENT IS CIVIC ENGAGEMENTEngaged citizens, people who care about their communities want to do something to make a difference, but the how is sometimes problematic. I believe it is because, as we know as Foundation people, results matter. People want to know that what they’ve done has come to some result. They also want to be empowered and self-directed.As an example, about a year ago The Rapidian pursued a beat model, we asked reporters to cover specific beats—government, entertainment, food and on. We found people who were already writing in those areas and then started asking them to cover specific events and meetings. It didn’t work. When the assignments became directed, people were less empowered and interested in reporting. So after six months or so, we dropped it. We know that people are inspired to write about what is around them. This inspiration, this platform provides an audience.
  • At The Rapidian, important stories can be a rallying points for community conversation and gathering. On Christmas three years ago, which The Rapidian was still young, there was a major run of vandalism in the cool and hip Wealthy Street area. Self-proclaimed anarchists threw bricks and defaced several businesses. One of our citizen reporters who lived in the area broke the story.From this, The Rapidian gained a lot of reporting and news cred and was able to gather about 200 citizens at the Wealthy Theater to talk about gentrification and the area. Difficult issues like race, class and economic status in the area came to light.We have 101 active reporters and over the year eleven college interns worked with our content coordinator, Holly. Content contributions at The Rapidian are continuing to rise, we had 826 pieces posted in 2011 and 1106 in 2012. So far, we’ve had 528 pieces of content added, That’s 19 new pieces of content a week. Does that seem like a lot or not? Consider this. Citizen reporting is a major volunteer time commitment. Unlike showing up at a Habitat House and painting a wall or giving an hour a week as a reading mentor, citizen reporting takes personal initiative and effort. I write for a living, and for fun I write as a citizen reporter I’d estimate that citizen reporting takes me at least four hours per story. And the complex stories take even more time. Since the start of The Rapidian I’ve written about sixty articles and they have connected me to Grand Rapids and people there, more than any other volunteer experience I’ve had.
  • Traffic at The Rapidian is growing, but like anything it takes time, much more time than expected to gain respect and audience. But, here’s where we are:2011: 90, 949 uniques, 2:58 time on page, 371K page views, 54 percent return rate, 30 percent referrals from FB, 4 percent from Twitter2012: 160, 699 uniques, 2:31 time on page, 529,230 page views, 2:09 time on page, 61 percent return rate, 24 percent FB referralsIt has been interesting to see what brings traffic to the site, what stories are most popular. I wish I could say it was something I wrote, but…no such luck.Here’s one of the most popular pieces….
  • 1. ULIE- Holland resident moves to GR http://therapidian.org/refusing-be-treated-less-person-longtime-holland-resident-moves-gr2. Dear Newsweek http://therapidian.org/dear-newsweek(2.2k FB shares, as compared to MLive's run of same story, 177 FB shares http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-
  • NEW AND FRESH IDEASJournalism teaching hospital. From a letter written by Knight Foundation’s President Alberto Ibarguen to college presidents about the disconnect between J schools and the needs of digital news organizations, The Rapidian is working on positioning itself to prepare student journalists for work in digital media. With a robust internship program already, The Rapidian is working to formalize relationships and find support for training from Grand Rapids’ five colleges.The Cub Reporters for elementary school kids started two years ago with a handful of reporters and now there are 30 kids involved. They are mentored by volunteers from the Grand Rapids’ Creative Youth Center, a npo that focuses on kids and writing. The volunteers work with kids to teach them basic reporting at the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities' program at the Cook Arts Center, which is primarily Hispanic. The Cub Reporters are able to see their work published in The Rapidian and are given access to people and events in the community.The Rapidianwas started and evolved in response to community needs. It has shown continued growth in visitors, reporters, content submitted and most importantly, community engagement. An inherently social platform, it relies on Rapidian fans and readers to play an important role in both content creations and distribution.
  • But still sustainability is a challenge, the original Knight and Community Foundation funding has come to an end. After trying to solve the puzzle through more traditional publishing means (ad sales), we came to the “aha moment” that The Rapidian will be sustained by doing what the CMC has always done; use media and technology to address problems, needs and issues in our community and turning to organizations, people and foundations that believe that place matters.You might have heard one of these terms: Placemaking, Citybuilding or Commoning. These are movements aimed at improving the gather-ability of places we share and enhancing them for the future. The Rapidian was even created in part, as a response to these “place” needs. Placemaking requires community involvement. It welcomes innovation in all shapes and sizes. And most of all, while inviting of government and institutional participation, does not advocate waiting for someone official to do it for us. It is citizen-driven.In this spirit, a new Rapidian section “Place Matters” is establishing a different type of gathering place; one where City Builders, Commoners and Placemakers can connect with the community to gather input and share ideas; where Rapidians can find out what’s happening, where the resources exist, how to get involved and where we can get inspired by stories from other evolving communities. The Rapidian’s already very open and easy to use format will be even more inviting and welcoming. Grand Rapids Community Foundation has agreed to support this new endeavor.
  • Denver Event - 2013 - Citizen Journalism and Civic Engagement

    1. 1. KDMC Denver by Roberta F. King, vice president PR & Marketing About us: Michigan’s oldest community foundation, founded in 1922 Endowment of $185 million, grants around $8 million Staff of 23 people and we focus on education, the environment, neighborhoods and economic development. Large unrestricted fund and growing.
    2. 2. In 2008 Knight Foundation launched its Community Information Challenge and I was intrigued. I like free (or leveraged) money as much as anyone and saw in the Community Information Challenge the opportunity to create something new and different for information delivery AND also a great way to get people engaged in what was going on Grand Rapids. At the same time, you might remember news-gathering organizations everywhere, including Grand Rapids were laying off staff and reducing operations. We could see that what people were going to get for news would be mostly national, statewide or crime-related in nature. The local and neighborhood news, which we felt helped create community and a sense of place, would surely go by the wayside. When we saw the Knight Foundation’s matching funds opportunity, we were intrigued.
    3. 3. Under the grantmaking category of social enrichment, we found a place where our unrestricted and field of interest funds would be available. We didn’t know, though, what the possibilities for a media project could be, so we called our friends at the Community Media Center. The CMC has been a part of the media landscape in Grand Rapids for more than 25 years and we’ve funded a number of their projects. Its media empire includes a public radio station, a cable access TV station, a large historic theater located in an up and coming neighborhood and a very good web design creation service. And they’re a nonprofit. The CMC is very much focused on citizen and community engagement.
    4. 4. Laurie photo
    5. 5. We called Laurie Cirivello at the CMC and told her we wanted to be her partner in a new media project. Yes, the Foundation called her with an offer of money. She was familiar with Knight’s funding of new media projects and met us with a great proposal: a hyperlocal multi-media news site for Grand Rapids with content generated by citizens.
    6. 6. What??!! I’d never heard of such a thing. Citizen reporting. Could this really happen? Would citizens report on news in their community? How would we police them? What if they said bad things? How could be trust them? Laurie reassured us that projects like this were emerging successfully across the US in larger communities and that Grand Rapids had all the potential to make it happen. Grand Rapids is lucky to have a very engaged citizenry and a kind of “Let’s make it happen here” spirit. The idea of letting the people determine the news is a complete reversal of the model of which we’d always known and we could only hope it would work.
    7. 7. Our grant request for $128k over three years was approved in early 2009 and we launched in September of that same year. LAUNCH The CMC did all the heavy lifting to design the civil discourse philosophy (no anonymous commenting) the training program for reporters and they built the site. The Community Foundation did the marketing and promotional work for the launch. Part of what made this project successful was a series of a dozen community meetings before The Rapidian even launched. We talked with people about what it was, how it would work, listened to their concerns and ideas. We also met with all the local media outlets to explain the project, we needed for them to see us as in enhancement to local news coverage, not a threat. Those meetings helped us build momentum for the launch day. The regular use of social media (when everyone jumped in and started a FB page or Twitter account) and the invention of The Rapidian happened at the same time. Social media drove our launch and still influences our success. Describe countdown clock and launch Built FB and Twitter followers, several thousand pre-launch Pass around casebook
    8. 8. SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUCCESS Much of the traffic at The Rapidian comes from Facebook links—about 40 percent, that’s down from about 45 percent in the prior year. More people are bookmarking the site and coming to us directly. Reporters are our best promoters, even though there is a built in audience at The Rapidian, new reporters and their subjects bring us new traffic via social networks.
    9. 9. CIVIC ENGAGEMENT The Rapidian presented a leadership opportunity that was not without risk and it was different than other initiatives we’d launched in the past, which were mostly around child abuse and education. We’re pleased with the result. In pockets of Grand Rapids, from unexpected places citizen reporters have come to us with stories that would otherwise go untold. Stories by Dominican Sisters, kids in Grand Rapids’ predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood, stories about the good work that nonprofits are doing, images by amateur photographers, environmentalists, musicians and arts organizations promoting everything from rain barrels to new music. The Rapidian is an eclectic snapshot of what our community cares about. CITIZEN GENERATED CONTENT IS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Engaged citizens, people who care about their communities want to do something to make a difference, but the how is sometimes problematic. I believe it is because, as we know as Foundation people, results matter. People want to know that what they’ve done has come to some result. They also want to be empowered and self-directed. As an example, about a year ago The Rapidian pursued a beat model, we asked reporters to cover specific beats—government, entertainment, food and on. We found people who were already writing in those areas and then started asking them to cover specific events and meetings. It didn’t work. When the assignments became directed, people were less empowered and interested in reporting. So after six months or so, we dropped it. We know that people are inspired to write about what is around them. This inspiration, this platform provides an audience.
    10. 10. At The Rapidian, important stories can be a rallying points for community conversation and gathering. On Christmas three years ago, which The Rapidian was still young, there was a major run of vandalism in the cool and hip Wealthy Street area. Self-proclaimed anarchists threw bricks and defaced several businesses. One of our citizen reporters who lived in the area broke the story. From this, The Rapidian gained a lot of reporting and news cred and was able to gather about 200 citizens at the Wealthy Theater to talk about gentrification and the area. Difficult issues like race, class and economic status in the area came to light. We have 101 active reporters and over the year eleven college interns worked with our content coordinator, Holly. Content contributions at The Rapidian are continuing to rise, we had 826 pieces posted in 2011 and 1106 in 2012. So far, we’ve had 528 pieces of content added, That’s 19 new pieces of content a week. Does that seem like a lot or not? Consider this. Citizen reporting is a major volunteer time commitment. Unlike showing up at a Habitat House and painting a wall or giving an hour a week as a reading mentor, citizen reporting takes personal initiative and effort. I write for a living, and for fun I write as a citizen reporter I’d estimate that citizen reporting takes me at least four hours per story. And the complex stories take even more time. Since the start of The Rapidian I’ve written about sixty articles and they have connected me to Grand Rapids and people there, more than any other volunteer experience I’ve had.
    11. 11. Traffic at The Rapidian is growing, but like anything it takes time, much more time than expected to gain respect and audience. But, here’s where we are: 2011: 90, 949 uniques, 2:58 time on page, 371K page views, 54 percent return rate, 30 percent referrals from FB, 4 percent from Twitter 2012: 160, 699 uniques, 2:31 time on page, 529,230 page views, 2:09 time on page, 61 percent return rate, 24 percent FB referrals It has been interesting to see what brings traffic to the site, what stories are most popular. I wish I could say it was something I wrote, but…no such luck. Here’s one of the most popular pieces….
    12. 12. 1. ULIE- Holland resident moves to GR http://therapidian.org/refusing-be-treated- less-person-longtime-holland-resident-moves- gr 2. Dear Newsweek http://therapidian.org/dear- newsweek (2.2k FB shares, as compared to MLive's run of same story, 177 FB shares http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-
    13. 13. NEW AND FRESH IDEAS Journalism teaching hospital. From a letter written by Knight Foundation’s President Alberto Ibarguen to college presidents about the disconnect between J schools and the needs of digital news organizations, The Rapidian is working on positioning itself to prepare student journalists for work in digital media. With a robust internship program already, The Rapidian is working to formalize relationships and find support for training from Grand Rapids’ five colleges. The Cub Reporters for elementary school kids started two years ago with a handful of reporters and now there are 30 kids involved. They are mentored by volunteers from the Grand Rapids’ Creative Youth Center, a npo that focuses on kids and writing. The volunteers work with kids to teach them basic reporting at the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities' program at the Cook Arts Center, which is primarily Hispanic. The Cub Reporters are able to see their work published in The Rapidian and are given access to people and events in the community. The Rapidian was started and evolved in response to community needs. It has shown continued growth in visitors, reporters, content submitted and most importantly, community engagement. An inherently social platform, it relies on Rapidian fans and readers to play an important role in both content creations and distribution.
    14. 14. But still sustainability is a challenge, the original Knight and Community Foundation funding has come to an end. After trying to solve the puzzle through more traditional publishing means (ad sales), we came to the “aha moment” that The Rapidian will be sustained by doing what the CMC has always done; use media and technology to address problems, needs and issues in our community and turning to organizations, people and foundations that believe that place matters. You might have heard one of these terms: Placemaking, Citybuilding or Commoning. These are movements aimed at improving the gather-ability of places we share and enhancing them for the future. The Rapidian was even created in part, as a response to these “place” needs. Placemaking requires community involvement. It welcomes innovation in all shapes and sizes. And most of all, while inviting of government and institutional participation, does not advocate waiting for someone official to do it for us. It is citizen-driven. In this spirit, a new Rapidian section “Place Matters” is establishing a different type of gathering place; one where City Builders, Commoners and Placemakers can connect with the community to gather input and share ideas; where Rapidians can find out what’s happening, where the resources exist, how to get involved and where we can get inspired by stories from other evolving communities. The Rapidian’s already very open and easy to use format will be even more inviting and welcoming. Grand Rapids Community Foundation has agreed to support this new endeavor.
    15. 15. Steven Depolo Matthew LT Filip Bunkens Flickr Sarah Jurek

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