KPCC/LAist’s early childhood beat has broken the mold for collaboration in the newsroom, illustrating what is possible when community engagement is deeply integrated into all aspects of a coverage area.
This beat was the first in our newsroom to be reshaped by the use human-centered design. Early childhood reporter Mariana Dale and engagement producer Stefanie Ritoper worked together to develop daily reporting practices that center community voices.
Child Care, Unfiltered, for example, set out to understand how people who were taking care of Southern California’s youngest children were faring in the middle of the pandemic, expanding and deepening our work on earlier Parenting, Unfiltered series. These providers, mostly women of color, were often providing care for working parents at great personal risk and financial cost.
To do this, we gave a cohort of 12 providers – family child care providers, preschool teachers, nannies and grandparents — cameras to document their lives. Throughout the process, we had to meet people where they were. We talked to them 1-1 to learn about their lives and the stories they wanted to tell. We coached on using cameras and new technology. We conducted meetings in English and Spanish to discuss the themes in the images. In turn, participants helped us deepen our understanding of their world when we couldn’t be with them physically.
For the reporting products, we wanted to spark conversation across multiple platforms, using art as an engagement tool. In addition to reporting online at LAist.com in English and Spanish and on-air at 89.3 FM KPCC, we organized five in-person photography installations around Southern California, and hosted our first fully bilingual virtual event. The result was an immersive, multimedia project that had a physical presence in the communities where providers worked and lived.
Child Care, Unfiltered helped us create practices to integrate engagement and center parents, caregivers, and educators in our day-to-day reporting.
We recognized that project participants’ contributions went beyond the role of being sources, and shifted our practices to compensate them. This conversation laid the groundwork for us to form a review committee and compensate them for their input into a pregnancy text service we are designing.
The cross-newsroom collaboration of the project led to stronger and more open communication across departments, including with events and marketing. We recently held an “ask me anything” event on pregnancy, and collaborated with marketing to target potential attendees with ads.
As a reporting duo, Mariana and Stefanie established regular communication around reporting and created a workflow to loop back with community members. Their regular meetings allow for agile reporting, like our complementary pieces during the omicron surge on parent mental load and requesting time off. Our workflow now includes sending thank you notes to sources and community members with an invitation to receive a biweekly stakeholder email, where we share our work and ask for input on stories.
Timely and relevant with a high degree of community utility. Not only did it report on a community, it built a community that is lasting even after the project completed.