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2019 Gather Award in Engaged Journalism, Portfolio winner

Southern California Public Radio

About the Project

The collection of projects in this entry reflect the breadth of our engagement work and the depth of our expertise and commitment.

Black Infant Mortality: Priska Neely has spent a year reporting on the black infant mortality crisis in Los Angeles County, where black babies are three times as likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. From the start, she invited community members to join her in the reporting process. She spoke to medical students and black student unions, at health conferences and at libraries. She embraced opportunities to distribute her work outside of our traditional radio and digital channels. That included the paper distribution of 6,000 informational postcards and hosting two live events in community.

Early Childhood Redesign: In 2018, we shifted from defining our audience for early childhood coverage “anyone who listened or read KPCC stories” to parents and caregivers of children ages 0–5 in L.A. County. We turned to design thinking to better understand parents’ and caregivers’ information needs and habits—and how we could best serve them. What we’ve identified is a high-touch, low-tech approach with community engagement at its core; this includes paper distribution of stories in community, hosting informal live events, and the launch of a texting news service.

Census 2020 Research: Southern California Public Radio is based in L.A. County, which is described by experts as the hardest county to count in the census. Our newsroom knows this is a big story for us, but before we assigned a reporter, we wanted to better understand how our journalism could be distinctive and impactful. That’s why we conducted human-centered design research into the census and the opportunities for public service journalism. Along the way, we discovered a lack of knowledge around the constitutionally mandated decennial count—including among heavy news consumers—developed a playbook for covering the census, and identified prototypes we’re now launching: an interactive to connect census with self and a community, ethnic, and in-language media collaboration to share resources and identify and squash misinformation.

Unheard LA: Now in its third season, Unheard LA is celebration of storytelling, community, and connection. The concept is straightforward: We bring the mic, the stage, and the audience, and community members bring stories about experiences that helped shape them. Each show is free, unique, and features a curated lineup of real people sharing true stories of life here in Southern California.

Human Voter Guide: Voting is hard. That’s why Southern California Public Radio launched the Human Voter Guide, essentially the voter’s version of the Butterball Turkey Hotline. And in 2018, we upped the service. The web-based engagement platform Hearken and the text-messaging engagement service GroundSource became key partners—their tools allowed us to track a larger volume of questions and offer a brand-new service: texting election-related reminders. To date, the Human Voter Guide project has received more than 900 questions and tips. The team has responded to every single question (when contact information was provided).

Ashley Alvarado accepted the 2019 award for Gather Award in Engaged Journalism, Portfolio . (Video by Aiyana Ishmael, ONA19 HBCU Fellow)