Resources for covering anything in local news are limited. For something as consequential as elections, how do you inform where you put your energy?

That’s a good question for any journalist or media leader to consider practically — and it’s also likely on community members’ minds.

One way to be practical for your needs and earn trust with your community is to find ways to listen. We recently shared insights from our 2022 Election Coverage and Community Listening Fund recipients, all 31 of whom used the election to find new ways to listen to community members they wanted to better serve. The fruits of listening — whether through in-person gatherings, surveys or other means — speak to good stewardship and the value of relationships. And elections are a concrete time to try this out.

We recently compiled questions to bring to your 2023 election coverage retrospectivedownload them here. Some of these prompt reflection for the engagement you might plan in 2024. For example, where did you go for in-person engagement with your community? Were your events really about listening, or were they only panels with “newsmakers”? If you did any listening to inform your coverage, how did it shape your actions — and how did you let the community know?

Your feedback loop might involve:

  • “Pop-up newsrooms” at neighborhood locations like local libraries, which helped the Honolulu Civil Beat expand who it heard from to inform election and other coverage.
  • Surveys connected to events or academic institutions, which helped the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel inform priority topics in its “Main Street Agenda” project.
  • Texting platforms like Subtext, which helped the Wausau Pilot and Review collect questions during the campaigns for state Assembly races, or live conversations on apps such as WhatsApp, which helped Conecta Arizona create informal space for discussion with community members.

Now is the time to consider what community listening may look like. As you discuss it, consider the frameworks and support of the API Inclusion Index, or resources and support offered by Trusting News, a project of Reynolds Journalism Institute and API.

We want to hear from you

The American Press Institute and The Associated Press want to gather insights on local news organizations’ reporting needs and challenges. The survey results will inform programming and resources from both organizations in 2024. If you are a journalist or media leader, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Insights from The Associated Press: Reporting on school boards

As school board races have become more political, candidates increasingly focus on culture war issues. But school boards do so much more. Go beyond politics in covering your local district by asking about urgent issues facing American kids. These questions come from a survey of educators by Education Week, an AP member news organization covering K-12 education.

— How should the district get chronically absent students back into the classroom?​

— Are this district’s strategies to combat pandemic learning loss effective? What would you do differently?​

Youth mental health and student behavior reached crisis levels during the pandemic. Do you support school-based mental health screenings of all students and expanding mental health services?​

— What strategy would you propose for filling teacher or staff vacancies?

The Associated Press helps local news organizations contextualize the election coverage through localization guides — insights from AP reporters to help situate local stories in the national context. Read AP’s full localization guide on school board coverage here [password is Democracy2024].

+COMING UP: Can election coverage begin a community relationship?

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