Why it matters — Designing stories for impact
Session facilitator(s): Anjanette Delgado, Jun-Kai Teoh
Day & Time: Friday, 2:30-3:45pm
ANJANETTE: Hello. I think we’re gonna get started.
KAI: They closed the door, so I think that’s the sign.
ANJANETTE: All right. So welcome to our session. Thanks for coming. It’s a packed room. That’s awesome. I am Anjanette Delgado. And let me make sure my slides work.
KAI: Left? Right? No? Uh-oh.
ANJANETTE: I think we’re frozen.
KAI: Oh, this is a really fun start. Hold on. Hold on. We can do this. Ah-ha! All right.
ANJANETTE: There we go. So we’re talking today about designing for impact, and I’m Anjanette Delgado. Right now I’m the senior news director for digital at the Detroit Free Press. And I’ve been there for about a year. Yay for Detroit. Fantastic. I’ve been with Gannett since ‘99, so quite a long time in different markets through that. I’m also a contributor to the Media Impact Project at the Norman Lear Center. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. It’s a fascinating project. And built an impact tracker with my team.
KAI: I’m Kai. Anjanette and I talked about this recently and why impact matters more for me. So I’m at a project within Newsday, and we’re funded by a non-profit grant. So they don’t care much about page views or time on site, but they care about impact. We have to show we pulled something off. So we started talking about this and this is how this came to be.
ANJANETTE: So our agenda today, so you have a road map of what we’re gonna do here, we’re gonna do a group exercise in sort of three stages. So we’re starting out with an explainer and discussion about what impact actually is. Because it means so many different things to so many people. Then we will roll into an exercise.
KAI: Yeah, and at that point, some of you might have to move around a little bit. We will be taking photos of the end product. So you might want to keep that in mind. So we’re gonna give you an exercise. There will be a mystery package that each table will receive, which… I think there are probably enough. Every table has some colors? We’ll figure it out. We’ll get it. But first step… You get your mysterious package. And then we’re gonna throw you some curve balls. The challenges. Because what is life without challenges? And then we’re gonna build on that more, and the goal is at the end of it, you will have sort of designed a road map to impact. Or better impact.
ANJANETTE: Yeah. So what you’re actually making is a sketch, which is why you have the Sharpies, and it’s also why you have the paper. And if you feel so inclined, there are googly eyes. You can add them. And there aren’t enough bottles of glue, but somebody next to you has glue if you need it. Okay. So in talking about impact, some people really feel like impact can be page views and reach, and different things like that. But we’re gonna talk here about influence. We’re gonna talk about sort of starting at the beginning here, with the 1700s, because you know, we should always go back and understand where we came from.
If you look at the origins of at least American journalism, you have to go back to newspapers in the 1700s. And what we’re talking about there is really having the partisan press newspaper crusades. So this is often… The editor and publisher might be the same role, and what you’re talking about is someone starting a newspaper because they have a very specific mission that might be separate from informing. And so you end up with a very pointed production that is designed to make a case for X or for Y. And so you have in the two examples up here – you have in 1721, that’s the very first newspaper crusade. James Franklin, Ben’s brother, arguing against smallpox inoculation in his New England Courant. Then in 1773, you have the Boston Tea Party, I did not know this, actually organized in the home of the Boston Gazette’s publisher. So not afraid at the very beginning to take a strong stance.
So then we skip way ahead, 116 years, roughly, into 1860. Now we start seeing, because of things like the changes in the printing press and things like that, where you’re able to publish at scale, and now you start seeing people wanting a wider reach for their publication, and then you become sort of an independent publisher, more often because you actually want to make more money off of what you’re publishing. Right?
And so you’ve got to look at the business model underneath all of this. So when you’re thinking about mass distribution, advertising at scale, you want to offend as few people as possible, so you’re less likely to take a stance, and that’s where we see things start turning more into a fact-based journalism, where facts are above all. So then you have… After the civil war, in 1865, the inverted pyramid. That’s the origins of that. Facts start taking hold. And we start pushing opinions to opinion pages.
And that’s where that happens. You still have a little bit of crusading. We all know the Pulitzer and Hearst story of yellow journalism, so you have some crusading in there. And by 1900, about half of the US’s newspapers identify as independent. So that’s a turning point. The 19 20s through 1940s were a little more informed on modern journalism, but now we have radio and TV and different ways of getting the news, and things start fracturing more than they have. But in 1923, ASNE created the Canons of Journalism, and declared that news shall be free of opinion. In 1996, a very pivotal year for online journalism. That’s when you see a lot of news sites go online like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and some others. That happens.
And when you have that changing, so your distribution is changing, then you start seeing that scale and reach become even more possible, because you’re not hand-delivering newspapers or something along those lines. And so you started looking at even bigger reach. And we all know what that did for a while to journalism. 2006, we start seeing the rise of mobile. And that’s also a very pivotal year, if you look at newspaper circulation. It had been declining. That’s kind of the year things fall off the cliff. And then you see changes in ad revenue. That’s where you see the start of the rise of Facebook and Google happens. 2007, very pivotal moment for mobile. The iPhone is introduced.
And so that brings us to now, and we all feel this, right? The changing model that we’re struggling with. Some of us are for-profit. Some of us are non-profit. Some of us are sort of a mix of both. And how that works. So we’re starting to question a lot of different things about what our motivation is in doing the work that we’re doing. But one of the things that we keep coming back to is impact. And especially when you look at things like non-profit funding, impact matters. As Kai mentioned. It’s a very deciding factor for who wants to fund the work that he’s doing. And I see it in the for-profit world too, where it’s really starting to filter into the for-profit world. Especially as we have subscription models, and we try to make the case to a subscriber: This is why you invest. Because you don’t invest now, because you want that physical paper delivered. You were paying for delivery. You were paying for ads. And now we’re using messages like journalism matters, and we’re trying to get you to invest in the work that we do. So that brings us to now.
How we define change or how we define impact is real world change. And so for the purposes of today’s discussion, and our framework here, it’s real world change. And you’ll find others will define it by reach or something along those lines. But impact is why we do the journalism that we do. And if you’re interested at all in impact, and you don’t know Lindsay Green Barber, you should look her up. She’s fantastic. She’s with the Impact Architects. And she’s done a lot of work around this. She’s talking about the impact on individuals, impact on networks, on entire institutions, and then also on public discourse.
So sometimes the work you publish can actually change the way people talk about your subject. And it’s fascinating. You can go really deep on what she’s done.
KAI: And also, I think on some level we all know what impact is. Right? That’s why we’re in journalism. But that’s super technical. But it’s just like… I don’t know. That’s why we do what we do. So anyway… I’m gonna hand out a bunch of history packages. If your table has more than five, maybe, move to a different group. Most tables, five or six, maybe… Yes? No? All right. I’m gonna have… So what you want to do is open this envelope, read the projects in it, the project in it… I’m running around. Here you go. I was told to do this with more flair. But I’m not exactly known for that. I walked myself into a corner. And as are you looking at this, and these are all real world examples of stories that are published, and were not… Oh, here you go. So one more. All right. Two more. Sorry.
ANJANETTE: There’s a seat up front.
KAI: Which table does not have… That one over there. All right. So all of these stories – we wrote them – not we as in “we”, but we as in the industry – somebody wrote this story because they thought it’s important, it’s meaningful, there’s an issue there. But it’s likely that we didn’t consciously think about the end goal that we want, or how we want to achieve whatever that impact was.
ANJANETTE: Yeah. So our goal here today is to say we’re gonna reverse engineer a project, and we’re gonna start with impact in mind. Okay. So the very first thing, when you open your envelope, is to read through the story and determine what sort of impact you will be going for. So what is your impact goal? Clear?
KAI: And we’re gonna give you… Let’s say ten minutes. For you to write and discuss and plan it out. Or… Well, think it out. The construction papers are there. Sharpies. Use them. If you need anything, holler at us. So we’ve got about two, three more minutes. You might want to start writing it down. Finalizing how you want to target it. What’s the kind of change you want to do.
So the screen went off. Is everyone ready? All right. So let’s start talking a little bit. I’m not gonna call on every table to share. But why don’t we go on a volunteer basis? Who would like to share their story and what they think is the change that they want to effect?
AUDIENCE: So we had a story about body camera use for Philadelphia police, and in many cases of police interaction with the community, there was no body camera, even if the policy put forth by the police department mandated that there should be. And so sort of the impact we were hoping for is… Sort of multitiered. Multitiered. Starting with making sure that the incidences of having no body camera footage goes down. But also starting to address the culture inside the police department of enforcement of that rule. The rule is already there. And then also talking with the community about why that’s necessary and helping to sort of… Bridge the trust divide between the community and the police. And then eventually obviously the incidences need to go down of this police abuse and search and seizure and all that kind of stuff, which is the reason they bought the body cameras in the first place. The ultimate impact would be that it stops or goes much lower.
KAI: I know… Oh, coming over.
AUDIENCE: So our project had to do with Leon County’s crime rate. It’s the highest in Florida for the fifth year, despite a dip. And we thought what would be most constructive for creating change, as a result of letting the community know about this issue, is to put it into perspective and look at perception like… Rather than reinforcing the perception that this place might be dangerous, and you shouldn’t go there, we can look at what is working to actually drive the crime down. Because even though the crime is highest there, it is continuing to fall. And evaluate what’s working to drive the rates down, amplify the solutions, look for opportunities for change, and we viewed ourselves as working for kind of a state-wide media company that was looking at Leon County within Florida, and highlighting it for a Florida-wide audience.
KAI: Thank you. Anyone else? Sorry. I’m getting my workout in.
AUDIENCE: We had a similar story, and we looked at impacting… Help me. The last one. Discourse. Thank you. Because we actually had a lot of questions. In all the numbers that were given, it was second or it was fifth. So how does this have the highest crime rate? What’s missing there? The actual numbers did not seem that high. So why was this notable? We wanted to learn more about what were the conditions of the actual county that seemed relevant, and we actually asked a similar question. Was this a local story or a national story? Because if it’s a national story, why are we picking on this county? And trying to flesh out where this was, in the discourse of news.
KAI: Thank you. If I remember correctly, that was a local story. Yes. Yeah. Anyone else? I think there were some stories on affordable housing?
AUDIENCE: Homelessness surges in San Francisco while tech’s richest grow richer. So some of the things we talked about were exploring the barriers for affordable housing, if that was policy or on the development side. Reducing apathy and increasing empathy among those tech workers and the areas that they’re living in. Seeing if there were changes in zoning or planning approvals. And seeing if there’s something on the tech company side, some actions they can take, influencing their employees and where they’re living. And then also reporting out about folks living in their cars. And the results of the population for that.
KAI: Thank you. Question: Was anyone uncomfortable with trying to define your real world change impact and the difference between journalism and advocacy? I’m bringing it up, because if anyone went to Kohl and Kayla’s previous session, that was a topic. Where do we draw the line between having an impact goal in mind and advocacy? Does anyone want to share their thoughts or feelings? Or if they just have thoughts about the stories that they were working… That we handed out to them?
AUDIENCE: I’m not uncomfortable talking about impact, but I lead impacted measurement at CIR and I’m taking over – full disclosure. Lindsay Green Barber invented it there and I’m taking it over. I’m not uncomfortable talking about it at all. I’m not uncomfortable explaining it to people. But I sense that with some of the reporters, they’re like… I just want to tell a really good story. And I’m like… That… Okay.
They don’t want to be advocates. But if you chose to report on a story, you might have some implicit biases, you might have some implicit intentions. And it’s better to think about those things and to talk about them and to kind of set up an infrastructure in your mind for what that is, and people seem to be receptive towards that. But I find that just in terms of the workflow thing… People are really like… I don’t have time to think about impacts. I don’t have time to measure my impact. I just want to write the story. I want it to go out. So those are some of the issues that I’ve encountered.
KAI: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Yeah. A reaction I had, particularly when I opened up our secret surprise package, was…
As it was about crime, is that unintentional impact of our reporting – and I think it’s just as important for us to think about that, as it is to think about intentional impact, particularly when it comes to crime stories, that can so often perpetuate stereotypes and perceptions. And I’ve been talking to a lot of community members in Oakland, California, who have told me that I avoid the news these days, because it disempowers me. It’s just about attacks on my community. And that’s the sort of impact that that sort of coverage often has on local communities.
KAI: Thank you. You.
AUDIENCE: I was just going to say… One way to think about it is like: As we were going around the room, did anyone think… Well, people getting killed isn’t that bad. Homelessness isn’t that bad. You know. Who cares about this stuff? No. Everyone agrees that these things are bad. So… Everyone should agree that we should be changing these things. You can be analytical or questioning about making sure the problem exists, or analyzing what the causes of the problems are. But ultimately, the bottom line is you’re allowed to have moral judgments. Because especially in these circumstances, we’re generally in agreement about the good and bad of the situation.
ANJANETTE: So maybe in thinking about crime, you can agree crime is bad, but maybe if you’re talking about the impact, then, of your reporting, it might be one step too far to say that the police chief should go. And your reporting becomes part of exchange that the police chief should go. And that might be your red line, perhaps.
KAI: All right. One more. And then we’ll hop onto the challenges.
AUDIENCE: I just wanted to piggyback off what Phoebe was saying. When I was managing editor, we made our investigative reporters start pitching their stories. Build pitch decks, and one big part was: What was the outcome of this story? And they don’t know that. So they start talking to other people in the newsroom and audience and engagement. So the story team is dramatic from the start.
ANJANETTE: How many people do that? Again?
AUDIENCE: Oh, I’m director of innovation for Gate House, but I used to be the managing editor of the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
AUDIENCE: We just want you to repeat what you said about…
AUDIENCE: How the process…
AUDIENCE: We made them build a deck. Like we have a template that we’ve been working on for years. And it’s got bullet points and they have to answer certain questions in it. And then they bring that to a committee, which was – and we still do this – and we actually do this at the corporate level now. We’re building a nation wide investigative team, and those investigative editors work with their – the regional investigative editors work with their reporters to build this deck and then Google Hangouts or however we can meet, sometimes we’ll do it in person if it’s a big enough story. They go through and they basically go to a committee, the senior vice-president of news, Bill Church and others, and they pitch their story and we press back at it immediately. They go in, retool, and we approve or say do something else.
AUDIENCE: Are these for dailies?
AUDIENCE: These are for the big things. Lots of resources, lots of development. If anybody wants to talk about it afterwards, hit me up.
KAI: And that last part was great too. Big projects, with resources… Which kind of segues into the challenges that you’ll face – or we face – or I face – because you have a goal.
ANJANETTE: I think we face. Yeah. So… Some of the challenges you run into… Your own lack of time. But your readers’ lack of time or your viewers’ lack of time as well. Competition for attention. Not just who else is publishing, but also what other issues are demanding their sort of mental time. Right? Can we care about poverty and crime at the same time? And it’s all competing. The information bubbles, platform divides, even how our newsrooms are built. I mean, this was an excellent conversation when Kohl and Kayla did their session earlier. Is our own newsroom becoming a sort of roadblock to us actually getting where we need to go?
Feelings of apathy and helplessness. Someone mentioned you kind of throw up your hands and say I can’t do anything about it. That’s very, very powerful. Incentives and values. What else?
KAI: Incentives and values – for me, it’s like how do you convey the value of the change that you want to do? Or how do you convey the value of the strategy that you’re approaching to your story? Instead of traditional method, you know. So what other challenges do people face? Anyone want to throw their pitch into this?
AUDIENCE: Lack of context. There’s a lot of times when we just go… This is bad! Or this is good! And are we all working on the same definition? Have we established that first?
ANJANETTE: Yes. And then do we have the time? Right? To establish that? Or do we just rush through it?
AUDIENCE: I would say just our… Newsrooms often have an inability to really be honest about… They’re already doing impact and all of that. So it’s just sort of like… Being self-reflective and being able to truly interrogate and be honest about the impact that you’re having, and this idea of advocacy – is that newsrooms are advocates. They just don’t want to interrogate how that really plays out. So I think that can be a barrier, because then denial comes into play. You’re facing a philosophical barrier, but at the heart of that is just not being willing to be honest about what’s already happening in your newsroom.
AUDIENCE: To expand on what was said back there, I would put a challenge as being… A lot of these stories, there is no villain. There is no clear cut… This is good, this is bad. And the challenge would be: Okay. You understand finally… You’ve nailed down gray and what the truth is, and how you move that forward, how you make the determination of what should be, and how you frame your article around it, and the barrier that exists, where if you do write an article that just lays out the challenge of the landscape of gray… People might not understand there should be a need for change, and how do you… We just want villains and we want victims. And it’s never that simple. And so I worry about spending a lot of time and resources on stories that lay that out, and people not knowing what to take away from it. And they prefer to read the headlines, like this is good, this is bad. But here I am, giving you a beautiful… It’s complicated. But you’re not gonna remember that story.
ANJANETTE: Okay. Next exercise.
KAI: Yeah. So now what you have so far is: You have a sort of outline of a story. You have what you want to achieve. And we talked about some of the challenges, either with the story or in your news organization or whatever. Pick one of it or two of it or as many as you feel comfortable with, and apply it to what you have. So you have a story, you have a goal, and now you have a plot twist. A challenge that you have to overcome. How would you design the story? Redesign it. Or how would you present that information with that challenge in a different way? To achieve the impact that you want to?
ANJANETTE: Is that clear?
AUDIENCE: Make up our own challenge?
ANJANETTE: So take the story that you have. And the impact that you want to achieve. And let’s say you really think that my biggest hurdle to getting this impact out of this story or project or whatever is that I’m communicating in English for a Spanish-speaking audience. So language is your challenge. Maybe your challenge is time. And so you might have started out writing a 100 page story, but you’re thinking of time, and so how can you deliver this in a way that’s respectful of people’s time? So identify your challenge and how you might work around that.
KAI: And it doesn’t have to be in a print story format either. So go out.
All right. You might want to start winding down. We’ll give you like two more minutes. All right, everyone. It’s time for the sharing session again. The sharing part. The fun part. So let’s do the sharing part again. You have a challenge, and now you have tried to design something to work around the challenge. Who wants to share what they came up with?
AUDIENCE: We talked about a lot of stuff, so I don’t know exactly which one to pick, but I wanted to point out that one issue we intentionally discussed is if we just discussed the issue of homelessness, politicians could answer that by criminalizing homelessness, which is also a huge issue. I think I’ve even heard about it discussed in Los Angeles specifically. So someone proposed just making sure you’re connecting it with specific policy choices that we know work and aren’t focused around criminalization. And do a root cause analysis of the problem. So that we can know exactly what policy changes are going to be effective.
KAI: That’s a good one. Anyone else? I’m coming.
AUDIENCE: We chose the challenge of apathy. Because it resonated with the issue of covering violence, and with so many of the other stories that came up. And it’s just such a big challenge. A few ways we thought of addressing it is: Addressing the issue of apathy and of not wanting to perpetuate negative stereotypes of a community that’s continually portrayed as violent… Is by creating a big package and series that would normalize community members and present families and kids and people who are living and working and going to school there. And it would include a live event series, where folks would share how they’re addressing this issue, what it means for them. We came up with the idea of including kids’ essays on their perspectives of what makes me feel safe or what makes me feel unsafe. And including a multimedia package featuring multiple viewpoints of different community members.
KAI: Thank you. There are some groups that have not shared yet. If any of those groups… All right. I’m coming over.
AUDIENCE: So we also had an affordable housing story, and we were also thinking about apathy, but also that this is like a big complicated problem. It’s hard to get your head around. So we talked about how we could maybe try to shed some light on how… Why is there a shortage of affordable housing? What are the systemic issues that are leading to that? So people can kind of break it down, understand the consequences of the kinds of changes that could impact that system, or an explainer about the section 8 system. How does that work? How does it not work? What kinds of changes to that system might actually expand affordable housing access to folks? So thinking more about just explaining and providing clarity on a really complicated system as a way to help bring about an impact.
KAI: Thank you. I’m coming.
ANJANETTE: You know, while you’re heading over there, I think that can be really powerful, because we often as journalists look to report on the mess. Right? Because that’s the chaos, and everybody likes to read about chaos. But it actually adds to the mess and the confusion. And so providing that clarity and just saying… Here are the steps or here are the solutions or something along those lines can really help.
AUDIENCE: So our starting point was: America has never gone this long without hiking the federal minimum wage. So that was the starting point, and we started talking about impact. And we did have sort of that tension in the first conversation about… The obvious impact would be to get the federal minimum wage hiked. But there’s a question of… Is that advocacy? What is that? But I think where we felt comfortable is in how do we… We saw the challenges, the disconnect, between the powerful people and the people living on the minimum wage and the fact that people who are powerful probably don’t really have much of a concept of what it would be like to live on the minimum wage. And so we talked about… How could we change that narrative? And we were talking about… How would you build an experience of what it’s like to have to budget and the challenges of living on that little money and the different choices you would have, and that ahead of time, you would find various people, including people who actually are living on the minimum wage and lawmakers, and survey them. We interview them before about their impressions, have them do the simulation, and then interview them again, and then once you release the series, you would also release that, essentially, game or simulation for other people as well. And the goal would be to put people in the shoes of someone living on so little money. But there are other challenges too. We talked about… Do you have the talent in the newsroom to actually develop that game? Can you identify the game players? Can you get them to play? Do you have the research capabilities to actually make it meaningful?
ANJANETTE: So you took a challenge. Great solution. And then discovered all the additional challenges that you would have in that. Yeah. Which happens.
KAI: And back here, correct? My Google Fit app is gonna be happy with me.
AUDIENCE: Our group… Maybe we’re just that curmudgeonly. We generally had a question about: What do you do if there’s no clear offramp? There’s no solution, there’s no villain. There’s no hero. Just… Bad… Stuff.
And how do you set up a situation in which: Hey, this stuff is bad. You should know about the stuff. You don’t have a solution for the stuff, but the stuff is definitely bad. And I think that is something that we are facing with a range of things right now. And I really cannot stand the notion that there’s no way to handle that. That there always has to be a villain or there always has to be a solution. Because we do need to inform. And I think information continues to be a meaningful thing. We’ve just got to figure out how to inform better.
ANJANETTE: Agreed totally.
KAI: So the end goal is less hopelessness?
AUDIENCE: I don’t think awareness is pointless. I don’t think awareness is pointless. I think an informed republic or citizenship or democracy is an essential part of them taking action, but I think we kind of get really attached to the idea that there has to be something over and above information for the thing to be meaningful.
ANJANETTE: There’s a project we did when I was working in Westchester, where our goal was just to explain the issue. And do the background, so that people understood what the issue is. And then we measured that afterwards. So did we change hearts and minds a little bit? And it was an issue over… Overcrowding. Why was a particular county so overcrowded. And everyone thought… Well, it’s them. And they identified a specific group of people by race and by religion and said… It’s them. And it’s their problem. And it’s their fault. And if we get rid of them, we won’t be crowded. Right? And we wanted to say… No, it’s actually because of decades of policy changes and other things like that. And so our intended impact was just clarity. Which is fine.
AUDIENCE: So our problem was… One in ten bridges in Michigan were falling apart. So… Bad infrastructure. And, like, we first started thinking… Well, the obvious solution is like… The obvious impact is… Better, safer bridges. Fix the bridges. But then we were like… Wait a minute. Maybe the solution isn’t like… We don’t actually need this bridge. Maybe we need something else. Maybe if there are too many cars, and people want bike paths… We just don’t know. So we sort of paused and went… We don’t have the context. And so let’s figure out a way to… Instead of trying to decide on what the impact is, maybe the impact is… Having the community have a say in that. So our solution was to take what data was available about the status of the bridge and go to the local community for some of them. By measuring how bad the bridge is. How trafficked they are. Are the bridges in predominantly marginalized communities, and start talking to those communities and say: How do you use the bridge? How do you feel about this bridge falling apart? And what would you rather have here? Do you want the big bridge fixed? Do you want a bike path? Do you want something else? And so it’s… My hope in it… Maybe I’m saying a little more than y’all were thinking… But my hope in it was: Instead of just telling the people what to think, let’s try to be a bridge for the community to say this is what we want this thing to be.
Pun not actually intended.
KAI: One more. And I think it’s also important to think about… The context we also don’t have is: To her point about… Some of those bridges are already closed. So it’s hard to imagine… A closed bridge… Maybe they’re already bad. That’s a thoroughfare that’s already open and it just closed and nobody is fixing it. They wouldn’t close the Harbor bridge in DC without providing some sort of… Well, maybe it would. But we can have these crises or things that look like crises that are so big or seem so pervasive that maybe they become debilitating for… Whether it’s policymakers or the constituency or whatever, and then their eyes sort of glaze over or whatever. So maybe it’s actually looking at the data and saying… One in ten. But 90% of those bridges are no longer used. I don’t know what the data shows. But you can do the math and make an index of… This is the most… To highlight the really high problem bridges. Where you have the most people, multiplied by the biggest problem or whatever. And focus on that first. Maybe that would actually be a way to have a more impactful story than to say… Oh my God, every bridge is gonna fall apart. It’s like… Maybe that’s not actually the case. Maybe let’s bite off chunks at a time. Does that make sense?
ANJANETTE: So make the big, giant, unsolvable problem smaller and fixable.
AUDIENCE: Break it into parts.
ANJANETTE: Yeah, good. I’m gonna skip past this next thing. But I think if you guys haven’t read about Anthony Downs and 1972 and his issue-attention cycle, it’s just absolutely fascinating. And answers for me in audience development a lot of things about how we all have those stories where… I can’t believe nobody cares about this, because they cared about it last week, and they were very passionate, but it follows a traditional cycle. And so people start… And gets back to the point of the problem is too big. I can’t fix it. So they start moving into… And you see this in your analytics. Fewer people are reading about migrant families separated at the border, where everybody was up in arms over it initially. So it explains a lot of human behavior and how that follows through. But I’m gonna skip past that. And do our final exercise.
KAI: Do you want to jump to the… So I’m going to give an example of what my project – NextLI is trying. It’s a little bit terrifying, because I’m sharing what we’re trying, and I don’t know if it’s successful or not. And I’m just pulling it out of thin air, kind of. So NextLI, we’re a data and research project within Newsday, with the hopes of helping do research so that people in Long Island – that’s what the LI is, Long Island – can use our data to be more empowered. And one of the big issues on Long Island is that there’s no affordable housing there.
Taxes are stupid high. And developers don’t want to develop new buildings, because then it brings down your land value, and it’s a crap show. And so we have an end goal in mind. Our real world change is to help people have more data to do… To push developers and to push more policies that help housing development. Sorry. That was not very well versed. So we have an end goal. We did our research. And with each step, the hope was that we would be able to kind of amplify the work that we did more and more. So, for example, we did our research about young adults and how they feel about housing prices and everything. What’s the next step that we did? We went and we started having a tour around Long Island, kind of presenting our data.
And we went to different organizations. The minority Millennials, and we sliced the data specifically to minority information, to present them, and the idea was that… With each step, we got more and more specific, and… Am I explaining this in a way that makes sense?
AUDIENCE: I understand you.
KAI: Yeah. And we also went to libraries. Because libraries are kind of like the community connectors. And we wanted to reach people that we normally weren’t reaching, because just publishing it on the website, nobody is gonna read you. And we’re not reaching a new audience that… We’re not reaching the people that we should be. So we started going to libraries, talking to librarians, figuring out… First we went to libraries. Then we figured out… How do we amplify our reach within libraries? We asked them: Can we set up a booth? Can we get involved with your events? Can we share your publication, and you share it within your networks? Just so that you can get this information out there.
So the hope is: Now, this part of the exercise, you take your goal, your challenge, and you try to sketch out how to get there, and with each step, you build towards more and more amplification that leads you to your end result. Yeah. Okay.
ANJANETTE: Okay. So this is a reminder that your sketch – we want to publish it when you’re done. And it’s just… It’s on a blog. It’s not published in a newspaper or anything like that, but any journalism blog so that others can see it. I mentioned the mediumproject at UNC Annenberg. So the problems you’re solving with this particular story, the steps you’re taking to get around the challenge, to get to that end goal of impact… We want to share that out. So use the construction paper. Use your Sharpie. If you want googly eyes and glue, this is where people need to see it, or whatever you think the googly eyes might mean. Use that. There is a number in the top right hand corner of your story. Please put that on your sketch so that we know it corresponds. We need one sketch per table. But you’re welcome to do one or more. Yes?
AUDIENCE: To be clear, and I think I know this… You’re not saying a sketch of the product?
ANJANETTE: The process.
AUDIENCE: Not the product?
ANJANETTE: Thank you. Sketch the process.
KAI: Okay. So we have five minutes left. And we want people to be able to share kind of what they got. So… Let’s do the last sharing part. I think we have a slide for it. No? Maybe? Doesn’t matter. All right. Who wants to share what their sketch of their process is? Otherwise I’m gonna send… Can I call on you? Thing. All right. It’s a sharing session. I can’t talk anymore. It’s the sharing part, because we only have a few minutes left. Cordelia, if you could start?
AUDIENCE: Sure. Our first step is to take what publicly available data there is, to prioritize which bridges we’re going to do stories on. The second is going to those… The communities around this priority of bridges and ask about their perspectives of what they want to do with this bridge, stuff like that. The third is publish those stories. Publish the data we have on those bridges. And then the fourth is trying to… Sort of convene the people, to have input into the long-term decisions around what happens to those bridges. Because a lot of times, it’s just the Department of Transportation saying: Here’s our decision, rather than the community saying: Here’s what we want. So for us, the impact is connecting those two things.
KAI: So getting people more involved in the entire process. Thank you. Who else would like to share what they…
AUDIENCE: All right. We haven’t talked yet. Our subject is reverse mortgages, and 100,000 people who… Families who are in danger of losing their homes or have lost their homes because they were somewhat swindled many years ago. And so the impact that we want is to make sure that people understand what reverse mortgages are, and also to… We thought the very end impact would be: How do we increase financial transparency in families so that everyone understands that people are making a bad decision – or could be a bad decision – how could we avoid this happening in the future, where people do stuff that seems like it’s going to work? So our steps would be to… We have to understand the issue of what is a reverse mortgage, which we had to kind of look up. We had some great knowledge and then not really understanding it. And then finding outreach partners in our community who could help us explain some of these issues, and eventually we wanted to facilitate a discussion around this financial transparency issue.
ANJANETTE: Yeah. That’s a hard one. I’m in the middle of that myself. That’s a hard one. Yeah.
KAI: And explaining a super complicated thing. Often clarity… I think we have time for one more. Which is the last group that would like to share? Somebody? Or I’ll pick a table at random. All right. I’m gonna pick the table in the middle over here.
AUDIENCE: Our story was affordable housing. I think we ended up with more of a generic approach. Not just to this particular story. But starting with research, which I think Cordelia also said. Start with research. The issue itself – we were thinking about lots of policy research, but I think also user research. Use that research to actually define what impact you’re looking for, as opposed to starting initially with the impact. It seems like you need to understand… We don’t know enough about affordable housing to say what impact you would want, necessarily. And then based on that research and the impact, figure out what the story format would most help deliver that story, and what the distribution model would be. Is it in the newspaper? Is it on the website? Is it an interactive? Is it a pamphlet that you’re distributing at the library or something like that? And then hopefully that gets you to a more just world, which is the impact we’re all looking for at the end of the day.
ANJANETTE: And on that note… Yes. All right. Thank you. Thank you. That’s us again. If you want to talk further, please get in touch. Both of us would be very excited about that. When we put up the slides, we’re also gonna have some links to some of the things that we’ve talked about today. So thank you all very much.