Fix your feedback loop: Letting people, not polls, drive your election coverage
Session facilitator(s): Ariel Zirulnick, Bridget Thoreson
Day & Time: Thursday, 11:15am-12:30pm
ARIEL: Try to fill in seats at some of the emptier tables.
BRIDGET: All right. Welcome, everybody. Thanks for your feedback. Thank you very much for joining us today. Come on in! We’re just getting started. We’re going to introduce ourselves really quickly and then we’ll get started with our activity: fix your feedback loop.
ARIEL: Hi, everybody, I’m Ariel Zirulnick and I’m with the Membership Puzzle Project.
BRIDGET: And I’m Bridget Thoreson and we’re here today to talk about public power in your elections coverage. So today’s session is really designed to be an opportunity for you to explore when this means, what this looks like, on tools. But we’re all about engagement journalism and engagement journalism that really brings in the audience into the conversation in journalism. So we’re going to look at what this looks like. And one of the things that we’ve been talking a lot about amongst ourselves is what does it look like when the community members drive coverage? Would it improve cohesion, or voter turnout, and would it improve engagement across the polls. And why this is a good reason is whether it’s across the industry is we’re seeing the industry pivot to reader revenue. And one of the things that they start to do is actually serving the needs of the community members and figuring out how they can make themselves useful to their lives. And there’s probably no better time to do this than election coverage. This isn’t a moment where you have to convince them that this matters. But it’s a chance where you can either repair those relationships or really impact the ways in which you interact with your community or really dig those holes deeper. So we’re going to talk about about how to hit that reset buttons during elections and hopefully bring in some more loyal readers throughout the process.
BRIDGET: Of course, you’re free to ask questions. We’re looking specifically at issues of citizens right here in Minneapolis. After that we’re going to sort of talk about the jobs to be done in election coverage about how we go about reaching the entire audience, and not just the audience that you have access to to give them the information that they need. If you’re at a table without cards, you’re out of luck, I’m sorry. We’ll get you some cards before the end of the end of the session and our hope is we’ll give you something that you can bring back to your newsrooms, to your organizations as you start thinking about the organizations ahead. So, first, we’ll want to start with a quick poll of the room: how many of you have been involved in producing contents in the newsroom in data visualization at any point in elections. Wonderful. Let me ask you to take off your journalism hats for a moment, put on your citizen hats. As a citizen have you ever struggled to get access to the information that you needed in order to participate in democracy?
Ooh, a lot of hands for that, too. We’re going to do a quick breakout session. I’m going to give you two minutes and I’m going to ask each table to come up with five emotion words when you think about covering journalism, or as a citizen participating in an election, how does that make you feel, what are five words that make you feel during the next election. I’ll take five minutes and I’ll call on some people to talk to us.
BRIDGET: And five, four, three, two, one… thank you, everybody. I need quick volunteers and think about emotions about elections. Yes, Bobby?
BOBBY: We had more than five but I picked five. Exhausted, elation, anxiety, patience, anticipation, and camaraderie.
BRIDGET: Nice. Who else?
AUDIENCE: Yeah… trepidation, fearful, overwhelmed, and then we have ignorant and excited.
ARIEL: That’s a doozy.
BRIDGET: What a complex emotion. All right. One more.
AUDIENCE: We had frustrated, apprehensive, exhausting, energized, and fearful.
BRIDGET: So we’re hearing some fear, and trepidation. We’re going to lean into that fear today and really design something wonderful. So let’s start by talking about the citizen’s agenda.
ARIEL: So one of the things that we know that’s going to come up this election are media storms. There’s going to be campaign gaffes and there’s going to be unexpected things coming up and there’s the things that are distracting the newsrooms from what they need to do is to serve the communities and give them the information they need during the election. So the citizen’s agenda is something that you can hold onto as you get buffeted. This is sort of a truncated version of the agenda. In the we have dropped sort of greater detail. But at its core, the citizen’s agenda is a priority list that originates in active listening. And there’s a few key steps in this process. You’re going to identify who you’re trying to inform. And crucially identify the difference between the audience and the public opinion’s information. You’re going to ask these people once you’ve identified who they are, what do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for your votes. You’re going to ask this question again and again. I would workshop you different version of this question to work to the one that works best for the public. And when you feel like you’ve landed on enough answers, you produce a draft of this agenda and publish that, and ask people: how are you doing? What points are still missing from this, and treat this as a living document throughout the election cycle that can continually be updated and be really open with the community about that, that that is going to change.
You’ll turn that agenda, then, into basically a playbook into things that will change. These are the things that you should be asking yourself. How can we help? Help members figure out this information that they’ve told me they want. Chances are, each of these candidates have their own platform. And chances are, the things that the community members most want to hear from them about do not have that platform. And another thing you can do is let the voters know when they’ve done that, and also when they don’t. This candidate refused to answer your question about affordable housing. This candidate’s platform does not have information about how might they react with federal immigration policy. So this is really an opportunity for us to really serve as a conduit and get them to vote on the values that they really want to be voting on when they reach election day.
Any questions about any of this before I move on? Next up, we have an opportunity to sort of look at Minneapolis is in what its agenda would be. When Regina and I were looking at this, we came up with sort of a fictitious agenda, but we grounded it in reality because we’re a roomful of journalists. We like to deal with facts. So what would a citizen’s agenda look like for Minneapolis. There was a county reporter, and founder of Sahan Journal, which is a non-profit newsroom that serve the immigrant communities in Minneapolis. And at the end of Muchtar’s spiel, we’ll give you an opportunity to ask questions of him to craft a better understanding of election coverage.
MUCHTAR: My name is Mukhtar and I’m a part of Sahan Journal, which serves immigrant communities in Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, where we are right now, we have 16% of the citizen population are immigrants. And 40% of the population are people of color. And one of the good things about Minneapolis in general is it’s one of the, I think, one of the only states in the country, or one that has the highest voter turnout across the country. In the last election, 2018, almost 80% of voters casted their ballot. So I came up with top-level issues that most people care about, and the things that we usually focus on in news coverage and what we hear about from presidents and the number one issue that we hear about is the ridings cost in housing. People cannot afford the rising costs as the public housing affordability is also going down. So there is a vision where the multiple public housing is going to change its housing stock into a private ownership. So I don’t know if you are familiar of the Eventual Assistance Administration, it’s where the housing will be privatized. So people are fearful that might lead to displacement and rent might increase if you have low income. And there’s a fear that this will be implemented in Minneapolis and in the Twin Cities in general. As we know, we have very brutal winters almost six months. And after that, you know, when you are driving around, you will see a lot of closures on the roads and trying to, you know — the Transportation Department trying to fix the holes that were kind of messed up by the winter and the snowstorms and all that.
And people are kind of — when there’s so much good climate, spring is beautiful but you’re a bit frustrated when you’re out of work. You get stuck in the cold for many hours and that frustrates a lot of people because it’s the state’s trying to have competing for who’s quickly — also, immigration as many of you know, we have one of the largest refugee/immigration populations. Twin Cities are sanctuary cities but people are concerned about the people who are being let in and the policies that are being represented by this current administration that really has a big effect on the local immigrant population. The Twin Cities has the largest amount of money from any American community and one of the most diverse plans, Somalis included, only eight people let in Minnesota. If you look at other numbers, 2,000 people here, 1,000, 2,000 people, and the Muslim ban had a really negative impact on the local smallian community and when I looked at the news today, they did say that it’s created this kind of climate so we’ll probably talk about those issues, as well. Minnesota has one of the highest also education disparities between students of color and their white peerses and we don’t have a lot of diverse students in public schools.
As the numbers of students of color go up, the numbers of students who are of color going down and also it’s not changing. So there’s a big disparity of teachers. There’s a big disparity in terms of education gap and exams and all that so we have a lot of discussions around that for the past couple years and the current administration, the new governor is trying to infuse new money to kind of bridge is that gap. So those are, you know, some of the issues that I kind of came up and I — this might be the issues that I think — so those — we have to get to the cities to know about the issues that we care about. And if you have any questions available to answer.
ARIEL: Anyone want to put their reporter hats on and dig into any one of these? Any questions?
AUDIENCE: So how do you solicit feedback in a way that makes you feel comfortable that you don’t have other politicians or campaign workers sort of trying to affect your agenda?
ARIEL: That’s a good question. We can — right after we close out here, we can go into more into the logistics of the citizen’s agenda. We just want to give everybody an opportunity if anyone has questions about this Minneapolis attitudes exercise. You told me a little bit about more about how this split happened in the last democratic primary that I thought was really interesting when we talked yesterday about how Minnesota voted in the democratic primary in 2016.
MUKHTAR: So the local governments, the party in Minnesota they’ve nominated Bernie Sanders. And the Twin Cities in general is a solid democratic space. But it’s probably different if you go outside the metro area. In 2016, the gap between Hillary Clinton and Trump was very close, I think around 4,000, 5,000 votes which is kind of, like, pretty shocking because we thought that Minnesota was a pretty blue state but it was one of the only blue states that remained blue if you look at all the marks around Minnesota. But, yeah, a solidly democratic state. And one of the candidates was trying to bid in the election.
AUDIENCE: I had a quick question about the voter turnout. Is the voter turnout in the Twin Cities equally as high for the all the elections, or just the generals?
MUKHTAR: So it’s not just limited to the general elections. It’s also to the primary local elections.
AUDIENCE: I’m speaking from Dallas which has one of the lowest turnouts, 6% — we got up to 9% this year! I know!
AUDIENCE: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how you’re thinking about, obviously,, like, a lot of these issues as you were saying is mostly for, like, immigrant communities that you’re trying to serve and how their voter demographics are impacted.
MUKHTAR: These are issues that I think most people care about.
AUDIENCE: But along those lines, is it one particular type of person turning out to vote, or kind of similar across how people identify ethnically and even along political lines?
MUKHTAR: I think the local population are really hit by the local politics. In Minneapolis, it’s very versed. We have one councilmember who’s Somali and the district that he had represented has a lot of immigrant population. So they are really involved in politics especially during the elections.
BRIDGET: One more question. Sorry, yeah?
AUDIENCE: What do you think it’s about Minneapolis, and especially immigrants that moves here that makes them participate at higher levels than other places in America?
MUKHTAR: I don’t think I have a concrete answer for that but most of these people didn’t have the opportunity to participate in elections in their liberal movements and they feel — they feel empowered to cast their vote and elect who they want. And, I mean, the election time here is just, like, really, there’s a lot of movement, there’s a lot of excitement during elections. So and it’s not just limited to immigrants; it’s across the board.
AUDIENCE: Just to answer your question earlier, Minneapolis had a 40% turnout for the local city council election last fall.
AUDIENCE: I can’t imagine.
AUDIENCE: I don’t think Texas can get that at a presidential.
AUDIENCE: We get close to that in state-wide generals. We get, like, 48% state-wides, but pretty grim in Texas.
BRIDGET: Well, as we all dream about achieving levels like Minneapolis, congratulations. All of you are involved in a little less than an hour covering the democratic national primary for Minneapolis. You will be working in small groups to determine how you are going to go about doing this that is true to the citizen’s agenda. But, first, we want to discuss as a whole group what jobs are there to empower these voters, and what sort of categories does that fall into? So, anybody, what do you think as a newly-appointed Minneapolis person you will need to accomplish to serve your audience and the voters in this election?
ARIEL: This could be issues based or just focused on logistics of actually voting. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Really great multilingual voters’ guide that goes down to every judge and every weird don’t go catcher.
BRIDGET: I was gonna say multilingual, too, absolutely.
AUDIENCE: I think they should include just those basic questions one might have — how to register, what the deadlines are, where you can do that. Anything else that you need to know, like, for us you need to bring in a billion forms of ID with you.
AUDIENCE: I would like to do highlighting stories on whatever powers have most power offer housing zoning, or transportation, if it’s a zoning board, or if it’s the state board.
AUDIENCE: We have something in Texas called the Railroad Commission which does not deal anything with railroads. It’s the oil and gas industry. Really explaining what those do would be really helpful to voters.
AUDIENCE: I think at a fundamental level how you’re going to decide between explanatory voting and event-based voting.
BRIDGET: Tell me more about that.
AUDIENCE: That is focusing back on the stepping back from the day to day and explaining more what’s the issue with housing policy when the different candidate’s position is on it, or what would happen if this candidate’s position would be on it. Versus focusing — we did an event, along the lines of reducing horse-race coverage but maybe more of a reactive approach. Which is important. And, I mean, there’s a huge audience. A small but a visionary audience for that kind of coverage and you don’t want to necessarily abandon it altogether. At least if you do abandon covering the events of the campaign, that it’s a conscious choice that you’re making over there.
BRIDGET: And such a question, too, or where are we putting our precious resources.
AUDIENCE: And performing, the candidate that I’m taking on an issue into a debate or something like that.
BRIDGET: So we have the logistical side, what can we get about them.
AUDIENCE: There’s a lot of misinformation to be expected around campaigns. So verifying or debunking rumors, or having a place where people know that they can go to fact-check information would be helpful.
BRIDGET: Yeah, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Finding out how different communities cover and access their news and trying to deliver it in that way whether it be Twitter or forums, or whatever hand copies. Or whatever.
AUDIENCE: Maybe somebody who’s, like, a reader contact point to — or it can be a reader’s voice in the newsroom and editorial.
BRIDGET: Maybe a human voter guide.
AUDIENCE: So we basically have the Human Voter Guide which is the Butterball of voting. So it’s about deciding having a team that’s on alert that’s ready to answer really about the logistics of voting and my favorite example is, like, we would get a lot of examples of my three-year-old drew over my ballot; can I turn it in? But we get a lot of news of people coming to us saying, why is my name not on the voter role? Tony?
AUDIENCE: In that we should be transparent about what our role is in this? Who are the reporters covering? What do we do with endorsements? Most of us probably aren’t that transparent. Explaining to readers what our role is. What our role in the process is.
BRIDGET: One or two more.
AUDIENCE: I was just gonna say, bring every candidate in and ask them how they would address the citizen’s agenda.
BRIDGET: And sort of directly, like, what we were discussing, what did they answer, and what they didn’t.
AUDIENCE: And then you have a fair — we do an edit board. You bring them in. It doesn’t have to be that. It could be a reporters’ meeting and then you have your citizen’s agenda is your boilerplate interview questions and you’re just like, “Well, I’m being fair to everyone.” You have to answer it. They answered it.
BRIDGET: Absolutely. Accountability. I think these are absolutely brilliant idea and what I hear at the core of this is: what do citizens need to know? What do they need to know to vote. What do they need to know about the policies, what do they need to know about who these people are who even affect these policies. What do they need to know. So that would be really at the heart of this exercise coming up here. So first a quick definition time ‘cause I think you go to any newsroom anywhere and you say “audience engagement,” and it could mean many different things. So at Hearken we have a definition that’s really a fulfillment to your audience. We’re soliciting feedback, and then incorporating the coverage, and proudly exclaiming the feedback that you’ve provided. If they’re not involved, and if they’re not showing what you’ve done for you, no matter how many clicks or likes. Truly understanding what you’re getting to your audience for you, and continually improving, what else do you need? How can we do better? So with that in mind, I hate to break this to you: I’m sorry… your audience doesn’t include all information.
That you will need to strategize and think about how you’re going to reach out to these groups. Where are they getting their news from and how we be part of that conversation and you do run the risk if you assume that the people that you talk to on a regular basis are all the people that you need to talk to. You know, middle class incomes, 100,000, 200,000 and above. How do we do that? Figuring out who we’re currently not reaching. And how can we reach them. Doing that map of understanding. Where they are, and getting that information. And I think it’s worth bearing in mind. That does not only include, where are they getting that information. What social media accounts do they follow? And maybe there are some partnerships that you can explore to find avenues to reach those people.
You know, a benefit, if you can take advantage of it in the digital age is that everybody, right, has a platform. So there are many organizations out there that might be facilitate these conversations with citizens. And, finally, you rinse and repeat. This is a one-and-done deal. It’s not like you say, I’ve reached out to that group. I’ve put out a flyer at a library. Check. Nope, it’s a continual improvement. And if you have not reached those groups, learning and you can grow and continue to adapt moving forward.
ARIEL: I thought this was a good option. I wanted to resurface your question in the back. Can you say your question again, and I want to make sure I answer this at the right time.
AUDIENCE: So in doing all of this, how do you ensure that the feedback that you’re getting, and the issues that people really want to hear about are the people’s issues, and not, say, affected by the politicians, right? So either the politicians or the campaigns. So if they want issue X to be their candidate’s primary issue, how do you ensure that you’re not letting them influence the voting or the citizen’s agenda and it’s not the citizens; it’s the campaign.
ARIEL: Your concern is that maybe they pressure to say there are certain issues that are top issues.
AUDIENCE: Or it’s electronic voting and they just see the voting over and over again, right?
ARIEL: Oh, that’s interesting.
BRIDGET: I’d put that to the room. Does anybody have any ideas about how you can design so you’re not bamboozled by these ideas?
AUDIENCE: I’m not going to answer but I’m goes to complicate this further. What is it that people think are important that the candidates are talking about. If a candidate talks about something, that injects it into the public discourse whereas it might not have before and you have to judge. A lot of people are talking about issue X, how much of it is because candidate A is talking about issue X. Does it make it more important, or less important just because it’s being talked about by one candidate.
ARIEL: That’s one of the reasons why we’re talking about this as a living document and starting doing this before the campaigning starts in earnest and continuing to ask it throughout the cycle. It would also be really fascinating to map what’s happening in the news at the points in time in which you get these responses back. I think another thing that you see that’s quite interesting when a candidate kind of stakes a point: people often interpret that in their own way. So you might see the top issue shift but they might not directly reflect exactly what the candidate wants it to reflect but more of how that idea is seen in the community. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to it other than this point of Bridget’s of rinse is repeat. And coming back to it every week and asking different communities at different points in the cycle and one of the reasons that we’re asking this conversation now pretty far out from the primaries and the general is the hope that we can start getting community feedback well before the campaign is sort of in high gear.
BRIDGET: Yeah, yeah, I do think that it really gets back to actively soliciting this information and evaluating it rather than just passively accepting what people are giving to you and rinse and repeat. But I think it’s a really good question and at the heart of how you can design for an agenda that represent those you’re trying to serve so I encourage doing this exercise to keep that top of mind, how can we make sure that we’re accurately representing those interests.
ARIEL: One question that we get quite a bit is the skills of crafting of a citizen’s agenda are the same skills as a reporter when you decide to interview seven people for a story, which comments have more weight and which ones need to be given higher priority. So it’s the same synthesis skills when you’re doing day to day covering and you end up what top comments you get end up getting a higher story. So it’s a very similar mode of operating. I think it’s just a different point of fact at the end of it.
AUDIENCE: I find it’s helpful to change my workflow. If you get news releases, or specific emails that you know you’re going to be getting, I filter them into a new thing and maybe look at them when I want to look at something as a whole picture as opposed to just reacting to when it comes in because it’ll drive me nuts.
ARIEL: Controlling inputs. Smart.
BRIDGET: Who wants to play some cards. If you are at a table that does not have cards, migrate to a table that does have cards. I see one, two, three, four, five, chairs over here.
ARIEL: We had a limit to how many cards that we could bring here. So we’re going to get a little cozy.
BRIDGET: So the migration is almost complete. So Ariel.
ARIEL: So based on what we heard from Mukhtar, we can design tools that can help election coverage. What we’re designing for is spring 2020. So that’s the framework for this because that’s a much more competitive race than the general election given the city’s voter registration. We will be providing a group of personas — a sort of, like, architypes of Minneapolis voters. These are meant to give you an idea of the types of voters, not to design for the specific individual. Everyone has, I think, the same nine people and it’s just meant to give you a bit more guidance in addition to who Mukhtar presented for.
You could choose to do design something broad that would serve the whole group of voters, or you can take one or two and design something very specific to their information needs. That’s up to each table. Whatever you come up is great. And as you’re looking at the personas and thinking about this, who are you trying to serve and what are they thinking is the questions you should be asking. So everyone has these boxes at their table and there’s a Bitly link. So have at least one person at the table pull up this Bitly link. It should be publish tested. Let me know if it’s not. And in the box, you have gray cards that have responses, and you will choose two of them and you want to think of them as we want to help people feeling X to feeling Y. The response cards have emotions and whatnot on them. You also have interface cards. They’re lime green. You can choose one to three, they’re up to you. And you want to choose platforms or products.
AUDIENCE: You choose these randomly or what we want?
ARIEL: Amongst yourselves, what you want. We also have a, “How do we pay for it” card, in green, those are optional. We didn’t want to throw that in there. You’ll choose one outcome card which is black and you’ll choose one engagement models card and those are the light-blue cards and those — the light blue engagement model cards really big a little tricky. I find that every time I do this, I have to go back to them again and again. So there’s a bit more explanation in the boxes. And the purple cards are for a bit later in the exercise so you can put those aside for now. So you can take ten minutes and you’ll use sort of this framework here to sort of rapidly brainstorm something that you might perhaps design for Minneapolis voters design for the primary.
BRIDGET: Please assign an ambassador and we’ll give you a two-minute warning before time is about to be up. And we’ll be floating around.
ARIEL: And these cards, you’re not meant to adhere to super strictly. Feel free to hold them up and mess with them a little bit.
- We’re actually going to extend it a little bit because we have a little bit more time and they’re kind of long — we just heard someone talk about.
ARIEL: One question that we got was at the issues that Mukhtar’s presented at the beginning, you should treat those as a citizen’s agenda for what you’re designing for. People were asking if those are something that we should approach. And those are certainly something that you would want to talk about in your agenda.
BRIDGET: All right, everybody. You’re going to have to leave it there when we are. So you’ve designed a beautiful plan and ambassadors, raise your hands. All right. Table ambassadors are ready. So you know now what your plans are and and we would love as a group to hear what those plans are. But — wait — when’s the last time that an election has gone according to plan. We’re going to throw some wild cards in there. That’s what those purple cards are for. You can pick as a group one of these five wild cards what’s going to affect your election plans and then. If you would like to, use those those for five minutes because these decisions move fast how you’ll make sure to achieve your objectives while also providing the coverage that your audience wants or needs around these events.
ARIEL: And the purple cards you can use to think about what things you’re going to subtract, or scale up from your plan, so they’re meant to connect or take apart your plan as you’re using it.
AUDIENCE: How will you be using this?
ARIEL: The purpose cards, you’re using it what you might not do after all. What you might do more often or double down.
BRIDGET: I’m going to go through five cards really quickly and then you can choose which wild card gets thrown at you. So you have more control. So a tornado rips through the state and all of a sudden you have to cover the natural disaster while also covering the political campaign as well as how those two intersect.
AUDIENCE: Is Minnesota known for its tornadoes?
ARIEL: We checked! It happens. They’ve happened every month of the year in history.
BRIDGET: Nasty rumor. Certain groups on the alt-right have circulated an unsubstantiated and viral rumor. Viral deep fake. Someone has released something that runs huge but it’s a deep fake. It’s something that’s been altered, but you can’t see it. Surprising endorsement. Not wanted. Not something you wanted your campaign spotlight. Not really good. Last wild card. Surprise allegations. I wonder when this happened. Someone’s said some allegations about a candidate. So these are your wild cards. Natural disaster, nasty rumor, viral deep fake, or surprise endorsement. You have five minutes how to discuss as a team. Is there anything that you’re going to have to take. Are you just going to choose not to give something attention so you can focus on the agenda and split the difference and then we can share as a group what fun plan you came up with. Any questions? Wild cards, go forth.
ARIEL: Two minutes.
BRIDGET: Everybody, gets the deadline. Put the project to bed! Printing. It’s done! Well, we have ten minutes left and we have five groups which means that each group gets two minutes, which plan, and why they chose their plan, and answer any questions about why they group came up with that plan, and how it went. So who’s your first ambassador? Bobby is still switching it up. We’d like to hear who you decided to serve whether it was a specific persona or a group.
BOBBY: So we focused on Julia who’s a local barowner. She also doesn’t really vote at all and she’s very kind of — she doesn’t trust what the news does, and to be honest, it feels like it doesn’t matter very much. So she is very jaded. She’s very meh about everything and we want to make her hospital, optimistic, and be more involved. So for methods of doing that, we’ve picked a three different things. More live events. More in-person, high-engagement, opportunities to talk about issues, and hopefully get others to explain things. We picked gamify. Gamify how polling can pick, and embattle and make a difference. And we chose SMS text as kind of an idea of democracy therapy. Because if you feel jaded, and you feel nothing’s helpful, you need some democracy therapy as an idea. For funding we picked any kind of support and journals. We found ways to focused down on what if. If people are way too focused on money in politics, are there ways to step away from that in perception. Our outcome or goal was a cultural shift in the way in which we choose engagement in voting. And how to to change a few people view voting and hopefully that creates a group and hopefully that spirals on and goes on from that but then there’s always a plot twist. The plot twist was a nasty rumor. That was a nasty one was if you’re jaded, and you have a rumor, that’s going to be a nasty one. And so we wanted to collaborate on SMS basically. Chat with them and ask them what are you thinking about? What’s going on in your mind as you’re thinking and this is spreading. And really think about that through collaborative texting.
BRIDGET: What does everyone think?
AUDIENCE: You’re a great presenter.
ARIEL: Who wants to go next? Should we just pick tables? This table here in front. Who’s your ambassador?
AUDIENCE: Okay. So so we are going to try to serve all of, like, the general Minnesota community based on affordable housing, public transportation, immigrant safety, equity. We decided that — universally connected, compassionate, and hopeful. I don’t totally understand what these are.
AUDIENCE: These are models.
AUDIENCE: Engagement models. You are here, bridge builder, and crowdsourcer. We chose nasty rumor as our wild card. Albeit we all find it kind of interesting and what we find is that the biggest outcome that’s going to matter more than any other is going to be trust because we have this completely unsubstantiated thing going around, and so we preferred live face-to-face things over anything printed and we decided to add collaborations with other news outlets, any kind of partnership whether it be, like, fact-checking but just to build up that trust, do more face-to-face and… yes.
BRIDGET: That’s really interesting. So the rumor sort of shifted the way you were going about the outreach it sounds like and that you were trying to build out stronger relationships versus, like, focusing on the information that you were providing.
AUDIENCE: And we reprioritized. We had trust as one of the initial outcomes and what we did was the when the nasty rumor hit, we prioritized that among the other three.
BRIDGET: Any questions or feedback for pivot to trust?
AUDIENCE: Join us!
AUDIENCE: Before that, we didn’t care about trust!
[ Laughter ]
It was like ehhh!
AUDIENCE: So we chose all of the people and so the one that we came up was that everyone seemed to be pretty baffled. Who should I be talking to? We’re not sure… and so we chose baffled to be the issue. And we wanted people to feel inspired. From not knowing to knowing the right questions. So the ways we chose that to go there were social media, chat, and audio because we figured it covered the widest bases and most people per household and another thing we talked about was that there were few people in the communities that seemed to be bridges in their communities so we wanted give them abilities to chat and opportunities to engage. If they couldn’t go to — because of bridge status and stuff like that. With the ultimate goal of empowerment to be able to make their own decisions and vote.
We chose a natural disaster as our thing to throw a wrench in it. And we kind of put ourselves at, like, a small-to-mid newsroom. And so what that natural disaster would do could really make us question, do we really have the capacity to do both. Do we really have the capacity to do them both completely and so we chose collaboration. Collaborating with other people. And then also the kind of strange iterate one which we weren’t sure what to mean. Are we questioning people election people, or just natural disaster. Is this thing so big that we push this thing to the side, and just do election work, or could we make both work and meet basic needs?
ARIEL: I really liked the point about bridge builders. Thank you for bringing that up.
BRIDGET: All right…
AUDIENCE: We chose the college person persona as a launching point and focused on the campus community and so we wanted them from feeling jaded and disconnected to feeling more informed and engaged. Given that tight geographic focus we focused on live events with free food because that’s how you get college kids to show up and SMS and social media are two pillars. We opted to pay for it through donors. And we wanted to choose a sense of community. And we chose to engage in change. A student population that didn’t really feel connected and didn’t really have their registration status figured out and so didn’t vote and so we wanted to get that community to feel more engaged or feel more active towards the community. I don’t remember which of these we chose. We thought kind of two to five. Any in the two to five range were likely to happen. And so that forced us to think about collaboration and iteration and I think think more about all three of our interfaces not as one-way communication but more as ongoing two-way communications with the community.
BRIDGET: Wonderful. All right, last group.
AUDIENCE: Okay. We picked a persona who’s a recent arrival to Minneapolis who’s in her early 30s and who is already politically motivated and engaged and already speaking in councils and things and she wasn’t sort of the bulk of the audience but we thought she might be questioning and already informed but we wanted her to, like, be even more informed and so we wanted her to be electrified and to get there, we’d sort of use a combination of social media, SMS, but we also thought live events, like, she would be somebody who would be engaged already in issues of news and she would be someone who might sort of come to events, maybe even participate as a speaker, maybe even become a source.
What else did we do here? Are we doing it backwards? Oh, we were gonna — we chose sponsorship as sort of the model for funding especially for the live events. And… also a mix of crowdsourcing, networking, we weren’t great about targeting and actual crowdsourcing model. The wild card we picked was — did we pick — we picked viral deep fake which threatened our sponsorship model because there were big questions raised about credibility that could kind of ruin the whole plan. And what is the last one and so we decided to sort of address that by scaling up our SMS-chat plan and just sort of try to get our reporting on that out there faster and quicker.
BRIDGET: Wonderful. Well, thank you all so much and I thank you… notice as we wrap up in our final minute in our time together today, what we saw today was that there’s really any number of ways that you can go about this type of work and I love how each group was able to explain how they went about their thinking and who it’s for and if there’s one thing that you can take away from this session I hope it’s this: putting people at the center of your election coverage is not a box to check. It is something you continuously pursue. You continuously grow and adapt over time and it’s never going to be done and that’s really at the heart of our work. So thinking back to the beginning of the session when we talked about those emotions about elections coverage, as you go back from SRCCON to your newsrooms, to your organizations, how can you flip that emotion? How can you flip that emotion within your newsroom. How can you flip that emotion for the people that you’re helping participate in democracy and as you continue to learn and grow from that experience you can know that you have gotten the job done. So this is where you can find us. I also have a couple of sign-up sheets here if you are interested in talking about elections one-on-one with me. You can sign up for a time. If you want to email me. I also have no affiliation with these Dot Connector card packs. They are available online for purchase.
ARIEL: I’ll put the link — so ahead of the session, we’ve put a few helpful citizen’s agenda documents on the etherpad that’s there. I know we glossed overcitizens. And implementation because there’s only so much you can do in fictitious situations and I’ll also put the link to the Dot Connector cards. Thank you guys so much for being down for the game. Thank you.
[ Applause ]