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This is a weekly newsletter for Gather, a project + platform to support community-minded journalists and other engagement professionals. We’d love your feedback. What's useful about this newsletter? What's missing? Let us know

In this week's newsletter:

  • SEPTEMBER’S TOPIC OF THE MONTH: Does your election coverage meet your community’s needs?

  • CASE STUDY: Learn how Alaska Public Media uses face-to-face public conversations to tackle important community issues.

  • JOB ALERT: KUT/KUTX is looking for an engagement-oriented Executive Director of Media Operations and General Manager.

  • HOT READ: Read API's look into the benefits a culture of listening brings to reporting and community relationships.

  • INTROS: Meet Anita Li, Director of Communities at The Discourse.

Does your election coverage meet your community’s needs?

For those of us in the U.S., the general election is in 61 days. Whether or not politics is a priority for your news outlet, it’s hard to imagine the people or issues you cover aren’t influenced by what will happen on Nov. 6.

For September, we’re talking about elections here on Gather. And because engaged journalists take pride in being focused on the needs and preferences of the people they serve, we can’t wait to hear from you about what *your* communities are looking for. (International folks, we’d love for you to weigh in as well!)

It’s fun to talk about innovative ideas. The New York Times and Bustle are teaming up to invite people to share political secrets. (Example: “I hid my dad’s absentee ballot.”) ProPublica has a new Users Guide to Democracy, with personalized emails that provide “an eight-step program to make you a more informed, more engaged, more confident voter.”

Let’s not forget about the innovative projects that came out of the 2016 election. Revisit one of them with Matt Kiser of WTF Just Happened Today. What started as a side gig right after the inauguration has become Matt’s full-time job, and he talked to Gather members in a lightning chat about the role his audience plays.

Perhaps my favorite audience-focused work leading up to November 2016 was the Wall Street Journal’s Red Feed Blue Feed project, which provides a needed window in the Facebook feeds of a polarized country. I still revisit it when I’m trying to figure out where some puzzling views are coming from.

We also need to get back to some audience-focused basics. My aunt visited this weekend from another city in Florida, and she told me how frustrated she was trying to get ready for last week’s primary election. She went to the local newspaper and used up all her free articles for the month just clicking around trying to find a page that summarized candidates’ stances on the issues. The experience didn’t exactly encourage her to renew her lapsed subscription. It’s easy for us to get caught up in day-to-day stories without providing an entry point for specific information needs.

How does engagement fit into your election plans? It might be a good time to take another look at the Continuum of Engagement described by Gather executive director Andrew DeVigal:

When it comes to our hoped-for audience actions, we of course want people to consume our work, follow it, share it and pay for it. Those are transactional, one-way interactions.

But take a look at the top half of the diagram, which represents relational engagement. How are we inviting people to participate in our journalistic processes and products? To collaborate with us and influence our work?

We’ll chew on that throughout September. To kick us off, let’s start by looking back. What past election coverage — local or national — has stood out to you as being particularly useful or relevant? Weigh in on Slack, or reply to this email.

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

Case Study: How Alaska Public Media Uses Face-to-Face Public Conversations to Tackle Important Community Issues

By Payton Bruni

Community in Unity, created by Alaska Public Media in 2015, invites residents of Alaska to sit down and participate in face-to-face discussions in order to tackle relevant community issues. Recorded for radio broadcast, the group conversations have included topics ranging from homelessness to race and identity with the hopes of getting people who wouldn’t normally meet together.

For the topic of incarceration – identified as a prevalent subject within the community – a separate series was made where episodes were hosted within correctional facilities across the state involving people who are currently incarcerated.

Read the case study on Gather.

You need a Gather account to view this content. Request an invitation, or let us know if your invite hasn't arrived. You’ll find 89 case studies and featured projects on Gather. Take a look through, and then recommend projects you’d like to see us dig into.

We’re adding to our collection of case studies and featured projects on Gather, and we’ve made it easier for you to share your ideas with a new Google form. Feel free to tell us about your own work or work you admire or want to learn from. And thanks for your help!

Lightning Chats

Discuss a shared challenge, brainstorm ideas for a project, or learn more about a case study at Gather's lightning chats. You can also subscribe to a lightning chat calendar on Google calendar or on iCal. Here's what's coming up:
  • Tuesday, Sept.18 // Election coverage that meets audience needs: Fresh off their ONA talk on this topic, Ashley Alvarado of Southern California Public Radio and Julia Haslanger of Hearken will bring tools and strategies to help your newsroom better serve your audience. Join us on Zoom at 1pm ET / 10am PT for a 30-minute conversation. Click here to add this to your Google Calendar.

Jobs, Fellowships, and Funding

Check out our full list of jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities on Gather, and let us know what we're missing. Here's what's new this week:
  • Executive Director of Media Operations and General ManagerKUT/KUTX: The Moody College of Communication and the University of Texas at Austin seek a visionary leader to serve as the Executive Director for Media Operations and General Manager of KUT and KUTX. S/he will ensure the station’s commitment to civic engagement and public service, both locally and nationally, by reinforcing KUT’s commitment to authenticity, craft, context and the unique power of the human voice in all its forms through intelligent explorations in local music, lifestyle, and culture reflective of the Austin experience.

    The Texas Standard, the Texas Station Collaborative, and KUT’s local coverage collectively make up one of the most well-respected public media news organizations in the country, and as such, the Executive Director will maintain the highest journalistic standards and editorial integrity to reinforce KUT’s commitment to being the news of record for Central Texas." Learn more. 

Community Update 

If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Join here

Meet Anita Li, this week's Featured Member.

Name: Anita Li 

What you do: I'm the Director of Communities at The Discourse, which is a hybrid role that bridges our company's editorial and business departments. In addition to editing investigations, my work touches on audience analytics, membership conversion and engaging our community in constructive conversation about the stories we cover.

Why you’re on Gather: Gather is great because it takes journalism back to the core of what we do as journalists, which is to serve the public. Our industry had gotten away from that for a while, and was producing work that was less impact-driven and more pandering.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: Getting readers to engage in productive discussions about the journalism we produce, especially during such a polarizing time, can be challenging. I'd love to see successful examples of that from the Gather community.

One thing you have to share on Gather: The Discourse is part of the Membership Puzzle Project and we recently launched a membership model so that our community members can directly fund our work. I'm happy to share our efforts around that. Also, get at me for great movie reccos!

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: One of our goals at The Discourse is to set the table for conversation between people who wouldn't normally engage with each other (e.g. they have very different perspectives, social circles, backgrounds, etc.). Achieving that — even on a small scale — gets me super pumped, especially now that it's more important than ever to make genuine efforts to listen to others.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? Like many in this industry, my natural curiosity about everything and love of storytelling led me to journalism. I've been working professionally in media since I was 14, so it's the only career path that ever made sense to me. The journalism produced by my childhood role models, Jan Wong and Lisa Ling, also motivated me to continue pursuing this path.  

Would you rather watch a movie, read a book, or listen to a podcast? I'm a film buff who used to review movies professionally, so even though I love a good book, I gotta go with the first option.

Links for ways to connect with you.
Find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and my personal website, The Other Wave.
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