Thirty-one news organizations will receive support through the American Press Institute’s Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, an initiative aimed at empowering newsrooms to implement community listening in their elections coverage.
The projects funded will start immediately and run through this election year, but they will also yield important lessons for 2023 and 2024 that can be shared through journalism networks and conversations facilitated by API.
The funding made possible through this initiative is designed to help these news organizations try new approaches to election coverage or expand on existing projects that show promise.
“At a time when democracy faces challenges at multiple levels, these projects will help news organizations nurture deeper relationships with their communities. All of the participants will share news and information that helps people more fully participate in our society,” said Michael Bolden, CEO and executive director of API. “It’s also essential that the participants will learn from one another and share those lessons to benefit news organizations across the country that are trying to engage people whose information needs have long been overlooked.”
In selecting the participants, the American Press Institute prioritized projects that seek to shore up trust and engagement between news outlets and communities of color. Many of the newsrooms are looking to expand their reach into communities that have been underserved or undercovered, leading to distrust and a disconnection from many media organizations.
The recipients will have opportunities to share with peers what they are working on and learning through informal virtual events over the course of the project. Those insights and associated written materials will be made public so that other newsrooms can learn from the experiences.
API will facilitate peer-learning sessions during the grant period and after the November 2022 elections.
As part of the Election Coverage and Community Listening Fund, several of the news organizations will receive a free one-year license for Source Matters, the American Press Institute tool that tracks sources in news stories and enables news organizations to improve the diversity of who is quoted. The recipients of the free licenses will be announced later this fall.
The following news organizations are receiving funding:
ABC10’s (Sacramento, California) race and culture team will create content based on deep listening in precincts in Sacramento with the lowest voter turnout to help meet community information needs not met by traditional news products.
Alaska Public Media (Anchorage, Alaska) which hosts in-person and online voter listening sessions to hear what issues matter most to people, especially in light of the state’s new ranked-choice voting system, will expand those sessions to two rural communities and partner closely with local radio stations there to help reach more Alaska Native and Filipino residents.
The Assembly NC and Advanced Reporting at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) will use methodology from small group listening models to help teams of student reporters better engage with “news desert” communities on voting, elections, and democracy across North Carolina.
The Austin Common (Austin, Texas) will expand on and distribute a zine/booklet called “A Beginner’s Guide to Local Government” designed to help people understand Austin’s City Council and mayoral races and the importance of voting, especially for members of Gen Z and younger Millennials.
Black Iowa News (Des Moines, Iowa) will assemble a Black Iowa Voting 101 guide, starting with a questionnaire to ask people their voting preferences. The guides will be delivered to local Black businesses and mailed to voters in October.
Black Voice News (Riverside, California) is planning a listening series called “The Voice Festival of Ideas” to explore some of the region’s most pressing issues and to recognize and discuss the importance of the election process for people of color between the ages of 25 and 65. Black Voice News will conduct outreach and engagement through newsletters, social media, partner media organizations, and community partnerships.
Canopy Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia), which prioritizes working with communities of color, lower-income communities, and those with lower rates of civic participation across the Atlanta metropolitan area, will listen and report in low-voter-turnout precincts, then create guides, resident profiles, and explainers that answer questions about voting rights and processes.
Carolina Public Press (Asheville, North Carolina) will expand its Democracy Day participation, as well as its research project exploring news consumption in rural communities where broadband is inaccessible. The news organization will produce election FAQs based on questions and topics from readers. All analysis and explainers will be available in English and Spanish.
Conecta Arizona (Phoenix, Arizona) will create electoral guides in Spanish to empower the vote of Latinos and of dual U.S.-Mexico citizens who haven’t voted in the U.S. The project also includes community outreach, fact-checking to debunk misinformation and an episode for the podcast “Cruzando Lineas,” about how the state has changed since 2010.
Connecticut Public Broadcasting (Hartford, Connecticut) will use the grant to support its toolkit designed to encourage watch/listening parties across the state during candidate debates this fall, which it is producing in collaboration with the League of Women Voters as part of an initiative aimed at advancing civil discourse through journalism and storytelling.
ecoRI News (Providence, Rhode Island) will partner with three local newsrooms to cover state and local elections through the lens of marginalized communities, especially non-voters. This will include community listening and a solutions journalism approach as well as interviews with candidates about their responses to the communities’ concerns. Content will be produced in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Epicenter-NYC (Queens, New York), which focuses much of its reporting on people of color and immigrant communities throughout New York City, will add reporting resources to expand its midterm coverage of local races in New York, with in-depth reporting about how local races impact state and national politics. The coverage will be incorporated into a weekly podcast.
G.E.S. Gazette (Denver, Colorado), a bilingual publication which serves residents of the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods in Denver, plans to hold focus groups and meetings to discuss issues important to the community to inform its election coverage, including an expanded edition in October.
Honolulu Civil Beat (Honolulu, Hawaii) will host “pop-up” newsrooms in partnership with local libraries to diversify its core audience and expand programming to areas of the state in need of more meaningful reporting, especially rural islands where access to broadband and reliable, local news sources are limited.
Investigative Newsource (inewsource) (San Diego, California) will use mapping and analysis to explore the potential impact of a ballot initiative to end free trash pickup for single-family homeowners, a service that creates an inequity for apartment residents and others who pay for pickup, including under-resourced communities. Its coverage will also explore special interests attempting to influence the outcome.
KALW (San Francisco, California) will expand on its 2020 elections project to serve more people of color by reaching into precincts that have low voter turnout, identifying community organizations and influencers in communities to help understand their information needs, then producing printed election guides that can be hand distributed.
Lookout Local (Santa Cruz, California) will use two listening tools — Subtext and in-person sessions throughout Santa Cruz County — to augment its election coverage and engage new and emerging digital audiences, with an emphasis on students and Latinx members of the community.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) will expand the diversity of its Main Street Agenda midterm elections listening project by hosting events in neighborhoods whose residents are predominantly people of color. The project is a partnership with public radio and the University of Wisconsin to determine what is top of mind for average voters heading into the midterm elections.
The Missoulian/Lee Montana Newspapers (Missoula, Montana) will hold listening sessions on seven Native American reservations in Montana to produce thoughtful and accurate coverage that represents these communities and amplifies the issues residents care about most. This coverage will not just be about Native voters – but for them as well.
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, North Carolina) will conduct a listening project aimed at understanding the concerns and motivations of unaffiliated voters in Western North Carolina.
The Nevada Independent (Las Vegas, Nevada) will expand its election coverage in an effort to reach all voters in the state including traditionally underserved rural and Spanish-speaking communities. It will expand coverage of the state’s ballot questions, its major statewide races for federal and state contests, including the pivotal Nevada U.S. Senate race, as well as mayoral, city council contests and other local races.
The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) will seek to fill information gaps about the hundreds of candidates in this year’s contested elections for the North Carolina legislature, especially involving areas outside the Triangle and Charlotte, using candidate questionnaires, community conversations and other methods.
Pasa La Voz (Savannah, Georgia) plans to host three events in heavily Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, where the audience would be informed about the importance of voting and attendees would learn how to register to vote.
The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) will report and publish a Spanish-language voter guide online and in print, making it available for free in locations where the majority of Utah’s Spanish-language voters live. The project will include a listening session with community leaders to further learn best practices in engaging the community.
San Francisco Public Press (San Francisco, California) will create audio and text summaries of local ballot measures and local candidate races with a short survey asking people about pressing issues in their district, with an emphasis on people of color in communities that are underserved. Responses will be used to query candidates on those issues.
The Times Union (Albany, NY) will implement a multi-step, newsroom-wide process to build trust with communities of color and ensure that coverage reflects its region, through listening tours, events, surveys and other actions.
The Tributary (Jacksonville, Florida) will use focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of communities of color in Jacksonville, using that information to build on partnerships, coverage, sourcing, and outreach initiatives and address deep gaps in the local news ecosystem in Northeast Florida.
URL Media, a multi-platform network of Black- and brown-owned media organizations that cover news from BIPOC communities, will provide seven of its member newsrooms with the resources they need to collect election-related questions from people in each of their communities. URL will then provide a shared researcher to report readily publishable, short-form answers that each newsroom can use on social media, on-air, or in their digital stories each week in the runup to November 8. The seven newsrooms are WURD Radio in Philadelphia, Our Body Politic (New York), Sahan Journal (St. Paul, Minnesota), Native News Online (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Haitian Times (Brooklyn, New York), TBN24 (Queens, New York) and Outlier Media (Detroit).
VTDigger (Burlington/Montpelier, Vermont) will update, design and translate its “How to Vote” explainer. Informed by a listening project that made deliberate efforts to hear from historically excluded communities, the guide is available in a print-friendly Google document in more than a dozen languages. The resource will be distributed via local community ambassadors to Northwestern Vermont’s multilingual communities where there is a strong demand for news in other languages besides English.
Wausau Pilot and Review (Wausau, Wisconsin) will use Subtext to collect questions from community members both during the campaigns and in real time during a debate for congressional candidates and forums for state Assembly races, with an emphasis on serving residents in rural and under-resourced areas.
WBUR (Boston, Massachusetts) will create a 2022 Massachusetts Election Guide with its partner Govpack aimed at providing basic election and candidate data, including candidate profiles for communities across the state. It will market the guide, with a special focus on Hispanic and Latinx communities, through both traditional and non-traditional methods.
About the American Press Institute
The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. We believe that for democracies to thrive, people need accurate news and information about their communities, the problems of civil society and the debates over how to solve them. That requires an economically sustainable free press that reflects the diversity of American society and understands the needs of its communities. API is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News/Media Alliance.