When THE CITY launched in April 2019, our main avenue of reader engagement and traffic came through our daily newsletter: THE CITY Scoop. It was widely read and widely praised. The punchy blurbs gave readers a sense of our stories and what was happening in New York.
THE CITY’s mission intensified as New York became the nation’s pandemic epicenter in the spring of 2020. Our audience grew multifold and The CITY Scoop grew to include many more breaking stories and captured in its opening lines the tone of New York’s daily battle through an unprecedented, rapidly shifting crisis. Some readers called it a lifeline during trying times.
But we knew we needed to do more — and, as we have from the start, that we needed to listen.
In addition to THE CITY Scoop, which offers a clear and accessible voice amid a complicated and saturated New York local news ecosystem, we’ve launched three other newsletters to meet our readers’ needs.
Shortly after the pandemic hit the city, we held a series of Open Newsroom meetings to better understand what New Yorkers needed to know and how we could help.
While there was no shortage of needs during that time, we established that many New Yorkers were struggling to stay up to date on the latest news and information surrounding evictions and unemployment. Information on these topics was complex, difficult to find and quickly evolving.
So in October 2020, we launched two newsletters: the Rent Update and the Jobs Update. These newsletters are delivered via text message and email as well as published on our site.
Both newsletters took the same approach: Each week we’d ask a series of experts and public officials what’s the latest information New Yorkers need to know. We produce newsletters in clear and accessible language, oftentimes laying out a step-by-step process to access or navigate the latest policy, form or bureaucratic website. We then make sure these newsletters end up back with the experts — often community organizers. Our updates have broken news including the first tenant evicted in the city during the pandemic and how the state botched its rent relief program.
The Civic Newsroom newsletter also grew out of needs stemming from a monumental primary election on June 22. Most of the city government, including the mayor, is up for election. Additionally, primary elections generally have low voter turnout and the city is using ranked choice voting for the first time. We wanted to cut through the confusion and provide New Yorkers with the information to get them out to the polls.
The newsletter started by asking New Yorkers what they need and want to know. We also provide and break down some of the most basic information for voters: What does ranked choice voting mean? How to request an absentee ballot. Here’s who you yell at to get things done.
The idea is the same as with all our newsletters: to serve by listening and delivering insight and actionable information.
The Online Journalism Awards™ (OJAs), launched in May 2000, are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism around the world.