The American Press Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to helping transform news organizations for an audience-centered future, today announced the five community engagement experts supporting news organizations in its Listening & Sustainability Lab in partnership with the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy.
Each of these “listening advisers” supports one of five publishers of color in the program. The program overall is designed to bring support and resources to publishers seeking to engage deeply a segment of their community with an eye toward sustainability. Listening advisers support publishers in roughly 12-week “sprints” to develop two-way conversation with the segment the publishers want to better serve.
The advisers and segments publishers are focusing on are as follows:
- André Natta, collaborations editor, MuckRock, and board president, Tiny News Collective, is supporting The Atlanta Voice. Their focus in the Lab is on Black business owners in the Atlanta area. Natta has worked in both hospitality and economic development, including working for programs in Georgia and Alabama, in addition to journalism and engagement work.
- Anita Li, founder and CEO, The Green Line, is supporting Haitian Times. Their focus in the Lab is on Haitian residents in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. Li has coached BIPOC-led newsrooms in the Facebook Sustainability Accelerator program, hosted the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Info Sessions for Startups, and led focused engagement journalism work in underrepresented communities in and around Toronto.
- Nicole Foy, local accountability reporter, Austin American-Statesman, is supporting Cicero Independiente. Their focus in the Lab is on Cicero and Berwyn, Illinois, residents between the ages of 20 and 35. Foy is a former JSK Community Impact Fellow who conducted bilingual engagement and reporting for the Idaho Statesman and community listening with Idaho Education News as part of API’s Community Listening Fellowship.
- jesikah maria ross, senior community engagement strategist, CapRadio, is supporting El Tecolote. Their focus in the Lab is on LGBTQI Latinx people living in the San Francisco area. Ross has led participatory media trainings around the globe, coached newsrooms on community engagement strategy and is the author of the Participatory Journalism Playbook.
- Adriana Lacy, digital & audience engagement editor, Nieman Foundation, is supporting Chicago Crusader. Their focus in the Lab is on Black members of the Chicago or Gary communities between the ages of 18 and 30. Lacy previously worked in engagement and growth at Axios and the Los Angeles Times, and founded Journalism Mentors, dedicated to advancing early-career journalists through mentoring and paid media opportunities.
“These publishers know their communities and also know that their journalism and business are strengthened by focusing on the needs of specific segments of their communities,” said Amy Kovac-Ashley, interim executive director of the American Press Institute. “We are thrilled to see the feedback loops that will result from the sprints supported by this talented and connected group of advisers.”
“We know that strong community engagement creates sustainable newsrooms. And we know that sustainable BIPOC-led and -serving newsrooms are both an antidote to misinformation and a thread to weave and build community power,” said Alicia Bell, director of the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund. “Witnessing the newsrooms in this cohort super charge themselves with deeper, specific engagement creates so much promise and possibility not simply for the newsrooms, but for the communities they’re a part of.”
The listening sprints follow an extensive audience research period facilitated by API and Michael Grant of Get Current Studio. Each publisher identified a community segment and conducted outreach within it, leading to qualitative interviews via API and Get Current with members of that segment. The listening sprints — which might result in new products, editorial initiatives or events — are informed by the information needs and lived experiences of interviewees.
For example, the Haitian Times heard in its interviews that residents are fatigued from the events in Haiti over the past year. The news organization is now exploring a newsletter product that will create conversation around “Haitian excellence” and uplifting cultural content, complementing its news reporting.
“It was quite a revelation for us and we heard our audience loud and clear,” said Garry Pierre-Pierre, founder and publisher of the Haitian Times. “As such we will be testing out a new newsletter focused on providing our readers with the kind of information they need.”
In the coming months, API will publish early insights from the inaugural Lab thus far, with the support of Ariam Alula, independent media researcher and strategist. Following the listening sprints, publishers will explore revenue generation for engagement work through similar advising from RevLab at The Texas Tribune.
For more information, or to discuss how to support these publishers’ work in the Lab or otherwise, please contact Kevin Loker, director of strategic partnerships and research, at email@example.com.
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. It is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance.
About the Racial Equity in Journalism (REJ) Fund
The Racial Equity in Journalism (REJ) Fund, housed at Borealis Philanthropy, was established to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of news organizations led by and for people of color to provide relevant, accurate information and increase civic engagement. The REJ Fund provides financial and capacity-building support to grantees, while working to increase collaboration and learning, and strengthen the ecosystem of people-of-color-led civic media.
About RevLab at The Texas Tribune
RevLab is a training and innovation center at The Texas Tribune, a statewide, nonprofit news organization in Austin, Texas. Leveraging lessons learned over 12 years at the Tribune, RevLab shares revenue-generating best practices with other newsrooms. RevLab is funded in part by the Meta Journalism Project.