Broke in Philly, an initiative of the Resolve Reporting Collaborative, is an ongoing collaboration of 24 varied and diverse local newsrooms carrying out dedicated reporting on solutions to poverty in America’s poorest big city. We aim to bring the issue of economic mobility to the forefront of public discussion and to provide high-quality journalism about, for, and with those experiencing economic hardship. The project, which launched in April 2018, is solutions-oriented and deeply rooted in community engagement. We have produced more than 200 reported pieces across TV, radio, digital and print. (All submissions and examples discussed below were published between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019.)
Our reporting has had impact. Last summer, Broke partner outlet Philly Weekly exposed that Philadelphia was keeping 30% of all bail bonds paid by arrestees – even in cases of dropped charges or wrongful arrest. The article also looked at how other cities successfully eliminated their bail retention. The piece was republished and highlighted (in editorials, audio news talk shows) across the collaborative and within two months the 30% retention was changed to zero.
We take unique approaches to covering the quotidian, but searingly important, aspects of poverty. Our High Cost of Being Broke series examined the ways life costs more for people who have less. The series, with original reporting from seven partners including the Philadelphia Inquirer, NBC10/Telemundo and WURD radio, looked at the cost of everything from bank accounts to diapers. Original illustrations by the same artist accompanied each piece, giving the series visual cohesion. The series then received earned media from CBS News’ online streaming channel. Another example of unique digital storytelling is our series of videos featuring everyday Philadelphians describing what economic security means to them.
Broke in Philly provides an opportunity to bring a collective topical focus to timely coverage. In the lead-up to Philadelphia’s 2019 municipal primary elections, Broke in Philly created an online tool for readers to explore what more than 50 mayoral and city council candidates had to say about the city’s economic future. We put out a public call for questions that our city’s residents would ask their candidates if given the chance. Broke collected nearly 300 responses, and after distilling them to the most common and/or pressing, we sent the Broke In Philly questionnaire to the city’s prospective future leaders. Their answers were then logged into a new online database for Philadelphia voters. The site was widely viewed in the run-up to the primary and we will use the responses provided by the winners for follow-up accountability reporting.
Finally, Broke in Philly specializes in community responsive reporting and journalism that is not just about people living in poverty, but for them. The “We’re Listening,” section of our site is reporting prompted by Hearken-generated questions or from Resolve’s in-person engagement efforts. This high-quality service journalism, provides valuable information for the 48% of Philadelphia’s residents who are economically insecure.