Early in 2015, we were faced with a challenge: how to cover L.A.’s municipal primary election in a way that would truly engage, inform and entertain the audience. In recent years, fewer and fewer voters have turned out on election day in municipal races and we suspected a race with no mayoral contest could be the worst attended in history. So we decided to dive deep into voter apathy.
We knew we couldn’t convince everyone to vote and that the magic of radio is the medium’s intimacy. So we decided to zero in on one individual who could illustrate the problem and go on a journey we hoped the audience would follow. We asked our reporter, Meghan McCarty, to convince one reluctant voter to care about the municipal primary election. She found Al Gordon, a small business owner and renter whose quality of life could be deeply affected by what happens at City Hall. But he hadn’t made the connection between his daily life and the decisions made on his behalf by elected officials. As a station, we went on a quest to convince Al he should participate in local elections.
We named our campaign #MakeAlCare and rolled it out in a series of radio reports, social media outreach and videos. Our radio reports fueled the social media campaign, which in turn elicited reaction from the community and elected officials, who also took up the quest to #MakeAlCare. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti chimed in with a personal video appealing to Al. Candidates running for L.A. City Council sought Al Gordon out in person to make their case. A series of cartoons on our website explained Al’s journey from reluctant to enthusiastic voter. The night before the election, Al hosted his neighbors and the candidates at his restaurant (aptly named ‘Community’).
Through this novel approach, we personalized government and the political process. #MakeAlCare caught the attention of Poynter, which hailed the series as an innovative approach to election coverage. The Nieman Foundation invited reporter Meghan McCarty to participate in a conference where she discussed the value of engaging audiences. The station is actively looking for ways to expand our #MakeAlCare campaign.
In recent years, KPCC has put public service at the center of its news and public affairs programming. At the core is excellence and community engagement by reaching people through our radio airwaves, our website and social media platforms and in-person community events. This multi-platform focus is key as we reach out to younger, more diverse audiences, going to people even as we invite them to come to us. #MakeAlCare was the embodiment of this approach.