A model for Latino community engagement
The Record-Journal offers a listening diverse approach for public media
How do you truly understand the needs of a community? Listening is the key to understanding and improving any organization, and that's exactly what the Record-Journal in Meriden, Connecticut did. What can we apply to public media? 🧠
Cited in a recent OIGO, the Latino Communities Reporting Lab issued a report (called the Latino Communities Reporting Lab Listening Playbook for Actionable News Strategies) worth reading. It is quite a lot. 🔥 However, the Record-Journal’s findings deserve investigation.
This newsletter, let’s get into the story of how listening helped create deeper connections between a media outlet and its audience while uncovering important insights along the way. 💯
How did it happen?
For one organization, it meant embarking on a listening tour to hear directly from their key stakeholders. Through open-ended questions and face-to-face interactions, this organization sought to gain feedback on what they were doing well and where they could improve in serving the Latino communities' news and information needs. 🤝🏽 As a result, they established an advisory board and created focus groups to continue ongoing engagement with the community.
What did they learn? Read on to discover the insights into news fatigue, interest in stories of success, health concerns, cultural traditions and more.
Listening tour. The organization identified three key stakeholders for a five-month “listening tour” to better understand news and information needs and get feedback on what it was doing well and where it could improve. One leader was from the United Way, which proved instrumental. 👍
The listening tour included a variety of open-ended questions “that focused not on our needs and concerns as a media outlet but on the Latino communities’ needs and challenges.” Queries included:
Can you share relevant information about our local Latine communities that you think would be helpful for us to know and learn more about?
What’s not being covered enough?
Where could we have the most impact?
What would be an outcome for your community that you think would be meaningful and matter to people?
Who else do you recommend we speak to?
Advisory board. The listening tour revealed a need for ongoing engagement. To do it, the organization created an advisory board. 📋 The volunteer board was intended to foster direct feedback from the Hispanic community.
The board was not started in a day. In fact, the Record-Journal spent three months figuring out the best way to operate the advisory board. From strategy – is the advisory board involved in editorial? – to mechanics – what commitments do we expect of members? – the organization had many conversations about how this advisory board functioned optimally. 🗬 In the end, organizers settled on a 12-person board to advise over a one-year term and one-hour monthly meeting. Informal feedback members received from the community was welcomed. In truth, such observations rounded out the analytics and data orgs typically lean on.
“They are the people, often leaders in their respective areas, who know in depth what is happening daily in their communities,” researchers wrote. “We interact with them regularly, either by email, personally or by phone, to find out about a lead or contact as we gather information for the stories we produce.”
In this lens, the advisory board was essential in bringing knowledge about the community. You may also note how such boards diverged from public media’s traditional Community Advisory Boards. In this case, members were able to connect the Record-Journal to sources for stories; and to help the organization see the struggles facing the Latinx community. 🤔 The economic and educational diversity of Hispanics; the cultural differences and shared experiences; and issues facing youth were key areas the advisory board helped with.
Focus groups. Also from the advisory board and the listening tour opened up opportunities for the creation of focus groups. Like the advisory board, these individuals also got essentially open-ended questions.
Researchers declared, “the main challenge was convincing respondents that the survey would ultimately benefit the Latino community with targeted reporting. We often heard individuals say that this type of research benefits those who gather it, not those who answer the questions.” 👀 Face-to-face interactions – addressing the concern and giving details about the project, as well as highlighting the opportunity to be heard – were credited as a means to address those worries. Researchers said it was also critical that those doing the work “looked, spoke, and came from similar cultural backgrounds.”
Focus group surveys asked many demographic questions, which allowed researchers the ability to look closely at particular groupings. In addition, respondents could choose from more than 20 topics of interest, such as education. ✎ The most successful survey collection venues were fairs like the Puerto Rican festival; Hispanic businesses, including grocery stores; and Catholic Masses in Spanish. Coupons and giveaways were survey incentives.
A shortcoming researchers discovered was that the survey was designed with traditional news-reading habits in mind. However, younger audiences consume news in a different fashion and could have been asked varied questions. Similarly, social media usage was not explored adequately. #️⃣
What was learned? 🔍 The Record-Journal’s findings included the following:
Participants indicated news fatigue. Stress over the news has prompted Latinos to prefer news about issues they can help with or shape.
Audiences were interested in stories of Latinx success, including Hispanic-owned companies and doctors or medical professionals that look like them.
Health subjects like aging and mental health ranked high in terms of interest.
Cultural traditions and food specific to particular nationalities was also noted by respondents.
Family-friendly events had respondents’ attention.
Financial literacy, including saving and credit, was on respondents’ radar.
It was clear that stress over current events had led many to focus on stories they could help shape or issues which deeply impacted them, such as health topics like aging and mental health. 🕮 By looking closely at this demographic's interests, their preferences for both news sources and topics covered can be addressed more effectively. Ultimately, by understanding these needs better, organizations like the Record-Journal could produce content which is catered to its audience in an effort to bridge cultural gaps while informing a broader public.
The Record-Journal's five-month long listening tour culminated in uncovering key insights and opinions from the Latine community. 🚍 Through open-ended questions, focus groups, an advisory board, and research methods such as face-to-face interactions, coupons for survey completion incentives and exploration of social media usage among younger audience respondents, the organization was able to gain valuable information it would not have otherwise had access to.
This open listening approach has proven invaluable in helping the Record Journal understand Latinx audiences’ needs better while also providing insight into what they could do better. With this knowledge they can now improve their outreach efforts as well as tailor content more closely to meet its target audience’s needs. Public media now also has more in its toolbox, thanks to this research. 🟢
La próxima ⌛
The next OIGO is in your inbox April 28. We are back with NPR’s Isabel Lara. 📣 Have you noticed the range of stories from NPR on Latinx content, staffing and engagement? It’s safe to say that Isabel Lara probably originated all of them. As such, public media could take cues from her on how to effectively share with the public and peers about diverse endeavors at your respective organizations. We’ll cover that and then some next OIGO.
Also to add, having some good conversations about sponsorship. Here are details if you are interested. 👋🏽
Cafecito: stories to discuss ☕
Speaking of guidance, Gather has an accountability framework out for newsrooms’ consideration. 📂 We’re seeing more of these, to which I say, give us even more,
KQED has launched a series on mixed-race Californians. 🔀 Considering the rate of intermarriage among Latinos, these kinds of conversations are a great entry point to tell our stories.
The University of California, Berkeley has prepped research into the lack of resourcing for Latino Studies programs nationwide. Few core faculty is a big issue across the nation.
If you haven’t checked out KUSC’s Nuestra Musica classical music stream, consider listening today. 🎵
El radar: try this 📡
Ask about Latino liaisons. Boise State Public Radio highlighted area needs of Hispanic parents, who may require help navigating the school system. 🍎 Some in the community are advocating for better services. Do such liaisons exist in your neighborhoods?
Investigate if Hispanics plead guilty more in your state. Colorado Public Radio revealed that Latines in the state plead guilty more often than white or Black defendants. 👮 Some reasoned it was ‘easier’ to strike a deal and enter a guilty plea, but the consequences of such choices can be profound.
Highlight bilingual learning. 📚 The House of Representatives designated April as a month for bilingual learning and advocacy. Are local nonprofits speaking up?
Tell stories of Latinx communities’ formation in your town. 🏙️ Zocalo Public Square presented a look at the generations-long effort to create Latino space in Chicago. The appraisal of Mexican-Americans not joining Civil Rights Movement protests is generous — “working within the limits of segregation restrictions to lay crucial groundwork for Latino politics and placemaking” — but I’m curious how common this story is in other communities.
Chat about Hispanic youth interest in science. The Illinois Newsroom just covered an event in Champaign aimed at tapping bilingual Latine young people to get into science. ✒️ Wonder if there are programs near you like this?
Muchas gracias por su apoyo. 🥤 You can buy me a coffee if you’d like to support the newsletter.