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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:

  • CALLOUTS: Ode to a staple of engagement strategies.

  • CASE STUDY: Read how CIR's Eyes on Oakland project got Oakland residents talking about public surveillance.

  • JOB ALERT: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is looking for a Project Manager for Engagement.

  • HOT READ: (Okay, a "Hot Watch.") Watch The Washington Post's Super Bowl message.

  • INTROS: Meet John Sahly, Managing Editor for Digital Editorial Content at Shaw Media.

Callouts: What do you want to know from your audience?

A staple of engagement strategies is the callout: asking your audience members to weigh in on something in the news or something they’re experiencing.

The callout can be designed for a high volume of responses, like this Minneapolis TV station asking its Facebook audience to finish the sentence “you know it’s cold when ….” That kind of callout is great for your social media engagement and also can produce fun, easy content by way of dotcom or on-air roundups of some clever answers.

On the other end of the spectrum are crowdsourcing efforts that help you tell deep stories based on real people’s experiences. So many of us look to ProPublica as a leader in learning from readers before and alongside the deep reporting process. Here’s a great post from departing engagement editor Terry Parris Jr. that sheds light on their process.

Where on the spectrum of transactional and relational engagement your callout falls will depend on the goals of your organization and the goals of the specific story or post. A lot of us probably are after a good mix of clever fun and heavier lifts.

Amy Wilson-Chapman is a Gather member who recently shared some of her engagement work from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on the Gather Slack.

The Panama Papers might be what comes to mind first when you think of ICIJ, and work like that doesn’t always lend itself to full transparency of reporting and public crowdsourcing. Amy, ICIJ’s community engagement editor, tells me that their network has been used to keeping things top secret, so collecting patient stories for a project on medical implants faced some cultural barriers.

I asked her a few questions about her recent experiences.

Q: What makes medical implants the right project to bring callouts to ICIJ?
We wanted to hear and tell people’s stories by tapping into already existing communities (patient groups etc), and speak with those who work in various parts of the industry (healthcare workers and those in the medical device industry). The callout also gave us the opportunity to see what we missed. There was no way we could focus on every medical implant, so this was one way to see if there were people being harmed by a device that we hadn’t investigated. It’s also enabled what I call a very ICIJ story: Reporters in two countries (or more) used the responses to track people traveling from one country to another for surgery. It has also helped us to see trends in the implants people have been harmed by, and the various effects they’ve had.

Q: What has been your colleagues’ reaction to the callout process and product?
We first discussed the idea of a callout before publication at a meeting in DC in April last year – as a way to get more information, patient stories, and hopefully some inside information. But as a collective group we decided to wait until after we published – so that was an opportunity to show people the power of starting a conversation with our readers. The way ICIJ works is so unique; we worked with reporters in 36 countries for this investigation, and not every country has developed the same ideas around engagement reporting. Product wise, we wanted to offer it in nine languages! So we used Screendoor. Unfortunately, and here’s a lesson for everyone, the organization’s servers couldn't keep up with our demand on that first Sunday. The website crashed, and that meant some of our partners reverted to using their own callout, as opposed to one shared database of responses. We transfer the responses into a Google sheet so everyone can access it easily (and freely) and keep a record of which reporters are contacting respondents.

Q: Any advice for other journalists looking to open up the culture of their newsrooms to this type of engagement?

  • Take small steps and be willing to prove the value of what you’re doing, before expecting them to agree.
  • Get the questions right, and, in an international context, think about how brand names/products translate across borders. We had a mix of multiple choice questions and open ended ones - so we can see trends, but also identify stories.
  • Have strong examples of work from other news organizations (we talked a lot about ProPublica’s Lost Mothers) that shows the value of the reporting too.
  • Always ask: ‘How is this benefiting our readers and the people affected by this story most?’
  • Make sure you warn any third party organizations about traffic spikes! ;)

Joy Mayer, Gather community manager

How CIR's Eyes on Oakland Project Got Oakland Residents Talking About Public Surveillance

By Jack Fisher

Eyes on Oakland was a collaborative project launched in 2015 by The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and the Mobile Arts Platform in Oakland, California. The project used a mobile van retrofitted with a portable recording studio and a screen printing station to engage with the public on the topic of surveillance in the city. Eyes on Oakland conducted brief surveys and interviews, and served as a conversation catalyst to both inform and solicit input on surveillance from Oakland residents. Over the course of three months, the project combined the interviews, the dialogue, and the interactive screen printing to build an art installation at the Oakland Museum.

Read the case study on Gather.

You can now publicly share the 97 case studies and featured projects on Gather with friends and colleagues. Take a look through, and then recommend projects you’d like to see us dig into.

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:

TODAY, February 6, 2:30pm ET // Kickstarter for media projects: Let’s talk about the pros and cons, and the when and why, of using crowdfunding for your media project. We’ll hear first from these folks about their experiences:
  • Alex Hernandez of 90 Days, 90 Voices
  • Courtney Hurtt of WDET
  • We are sharing Madeleine Poore of WAMU's experience on her behalf.
Join us on Zoom at 2:30pm ET / 1:30pm CT / 11:30am 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.
  • Project Manager, Engagement, Corporation for Public Broadcasting: "Develop and manage public media engagement grant programs that address community issues and build awareness of the impact of public service media on American life. Ensure effective coordination and alignment of activities and impact measurement working with stations, producers and distributors, partners and other experts. Communicate system-wide and with key stakeholders around progress and success of projects." Deadline: February 15, 2019. Learn more.

Community Updates

If you haven't joined the Gather Slack community, you're missing out on a lot of brainstorming, advice giving and collaboration. Join here.
  • Women leaders: Newly selected members of two programs have been announced recently: Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media, and ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator. Congratulations to the EIGHT Gather members who were chosen for one of these two programs. Please give it up for:
    • ONA
      • Elizabeth Dunbar
      • Anika Gupta
      • Alexandra Manzano
      • Flip Prior
    • Poynter
      • Marina Garcia-Vasquez
      • Natasha Madov
      • Emily Ristow
      • Nicole Stockdale
  • Additions to the Gather steering committee: Since ideas around Gather started to take shape early in 2017, we’ve relied on a steering committee to guide our mission, our priorities and our products. We’re thrilled to announce two new members of that committee: Kim Bode, manager of community and product operations at News Deeply, and Tauhid Chappell, engagement editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Thanks for being willing to help shape the future of Gather, Kim and Tauhid!
  • Hot Read: "Watch The Washington Post's Super Bowl message: 'Democracy Dies in Darkness" by The Washington Post. (This is the Gather community's most-shared story on Twitter this week. Look for other 'hot reads' in Friday's Nuzzel newsletter and in the #reads channel on the Gather Slack.)

Meet John Sahly, this week's Featured Member.

Name: John Sahly

What you do: Managing Editor for digital editorial content for Shaw Media. I wear a lot of hats.

Why you’re on Gather: I see this community as a major opportunity to connect with people in my field and position to discuss the challenges we face in this industry and find solutions to our great problems.

One thing you want to learn on Gather: I have two, and one might go against the general concept of engagement because it’s been such a bedrock of the start of the engagement journalism period. 1) What small and mid-sized dailies are doing to increase and improve their membership programs. 2) Given the myriad problems at Facebook, what are we doing to make them less relevant to our success?

One thing you have to share on Gather: My background is in sports, and I think some of the lessons I’ve learned in that department is how to engage our audience in a variety of ways. It’s generally a great place to start if you’re looking to do better with your engagement.

One thing about your work that gets you especially pumped up: Whenever we have the opportunity to shine a light on the fantastic work of our reporters.

Who or what inspired you to get into this work? Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading the Chicago Tribune in the morning and bringing home the Chicago Sun-Times after work. We constantly read newspapers growing up, and I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.

Would you rather give up social media or coffee for a week? Social media. Can I give up Facebook for longer?

Links for ways to connect with you.
Twitter: @jsahly
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