Safer Cities, St. Paul, MN 1995
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Wilder Research Center
Breaking out of the daily police blotter routine, the paper commissioned a poll of 2,853 Twin City residents that explored public attitudes toward crime and safety and assigned a team of four reporters to look at crime in the context of race, age, gender and geography. They also explored the media's role in public perceptions of crime.
The 10-part series began in the Pioneer Press on Sept. 24, 1995 and ran Sundays through Nov. 26. With interactive features, such as a risk quiz and a neighborhood audit, the series guided readers through a psychological evaluation of their own fears, a reality check about the dangers in their lives, the best ideas from around the country for fighting crime and a look at the most promising local efforts, including a map of resources and lists of safety tips. The paper also sponsored two public forums - each with about 40 people - on crime issues and reported the results.
KARE aired six stories about the poll results.
Reader reaction was overwhelmingly positive and the series won the top prize from the Minnesota Associated Press and the University of Minnesota Journalism School. The series had a long-term impact on the paper, too. Editors revamped crime coverage, instituting a public safety column, and reorganized the newsroom into teams and clusters.
The paper also applied and refined the "Safer Cities" model in later projects, including "Across Generations," about tensions among different age groups, "Poverty Among Us," about combating post-welfare reform poverty, and "The New Face of Minnesota," about immigration. Together, these projects won a Legacy Award in the Pew Center's 2002 Batten Awards competition.
Walker Lundy (Former Pioneer Press editor)
Editor & Executive Vice President
The Philadelphia Inquirer
400 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19101-8263
TEL: (215) 854-4594
FAX: (215) 854-5099
Sr. Editor, Politics & Special Projects
St. Paul Pioneer Press
345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55105-1057
TEL: (651) 228-5522
FAX: (651) 228-5500
Aging and Family Issues, Express
St. Paul Pioneer Press
345 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101-1057
TEL: (651) 228-5468
A Community Conversation, Grand Forks, ND 1995
Grand Forks Herald
Northern LightsPublic Radio
The partners held a series of "Community Conversations" via coffee klatches, focus groups and polls, assessing quality-of-life issues and forging a vision for the future of Grand Forks, a city of 60,000. The partners kicked the project off by driving a van to various public places around the city for a month. They interviewed some 120 people in coffee shops, bowling alleys, shopping malls and a U.S. Air Force base. They used comments from these conversations to devise a poll of 400 residents. The surprise consensus, reported by the partners on June 2, 1995, was that people believed Grand Forks officials could make the city a better place by fixing the streets.
Through the summer and fall, the partners held and reported on a series of focus groups, during which four issues emerged as key to the town's future: crime, jobs, family activities and, of course, better streets. The finale of the project was a public hearing and citywide block party at which citizens discussed the city's future and generated possible solutions for the city to study.
The paper felt the community impact was so positive, it returned to the community conversation model in 1998, involving some 1,500 people in conversations about how to revive community spirit after a devastating flood wiped out parts of the city and left residents divided about how to rebuild.
Grand Forks Herald
120 N. 4th St.
Grand Forks, ND 58206
Phone: (701) 780-1103
Your Voices Count, San Jose, CA 1995
San Jose Mercury News
KIVE and KARA Radio
Santa Clara Public Libraries
Solid investigative journalism documented the problem of special-interest money corrupting the California State Assembly,but the Mercury News turned to civic journalism to ensure that its investigation had impact. At the end of its hard-hitting "Legislature for Sale" project, the paper asked citizens to volunteer to learn more about and become involved in, the legislative process. Some 200 people responded, and about 75 stayed with the project through the 1995 legislative session.
"Your Voices Count" kicked off June 18 with a front-page story in the Mercury News and a three-part series on KNTV. The paper then held a seminar where experts taught the volunteers the basics of the legislative process and sent the group to Sacramento to observe the process first hand.
The group broke into four teams: accountability, civic involvement, structural reform and campaign finance. They created a "Legislative Statement of Accountability," which they asked all legislators and candidates to sign, and a Web site to help citizens research legislation. Members sponsored a televised Citizens Inquiry Panel and produced a town hall meeting with eight legislators answering questions from an audience of more than 500 people.
The project was not without controversy. Some traditional journalists accused the paper of crossing the line of detached observer in reporting on the activities of a citizen activist group that it had created. Mercury News editors responded that part of the paper's role was in helping citizens become more active civic participants. The citizens group continued work after the project ended.
California Voter Foundation
2401 L Street, 2nd floor
Sacramento, CA 95816
Phone: (916) 325-2120
San Jose Mercury News
750 Ridder Park Dr.
San Jose, CA 95190
Phone: (408) 920-5456
Jonathan Krim (Former Mercury News Project Editor)
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071
Grading Our Schools, Rochester, NY 1995
Rochester Democrat andChronicle
WXXI Public Television
Eight years after a highly touted school reform effort began, Rochester area residents still had concerns about education. "Grading our Schools" got hundreds of them participating - through polls, televised town meetings, focus groups and chat rooms - in appraising and redirecting the effort. The project also laid the groundwork for several subsequent civic journalism projects on education, violence and youth issues.
The partners surveyed 768 city and suburban residents about local schools and held two focus groups with poll respondents to discuss the results in more depth. The findings - that school reform efforts got a low C; that teachers were doing a good job but parents needed to do more; that students seemed to be graduating without the skills they needed - were published May 13, 1995, kicking off a series that would include 70 newspaper stories, five TV shows and four radio broadcasts.
Broadcast town meetings were held May 14 and 16, at two locations, where the partners also held mini-information fairs and signed up volunteers. About 200 people attended the meetings, more than a thousand responded by telephone to flash poll questions during the broadcasts and some 60 people took part in AOL chat rooms set up for the event.
As discussions continued, the partners followed up with "Upgrading our Schools," seeking more student input. Public officials praised the project for promoting metropolitan solutions to regional problems and helping resolve a longstanding debate over the distribution of tax revenues.
Blair Claflin (former public affairs editor, D&C)
The Des Moines Register
715 Locust St.
Des Moines, IA 50304
Phone: (515) 284-8052
VP of Television
280 State St - PO Box 30021
Rochester, NY 14603-3021
TEL: (585) 258-0241
FAX: (585) 258-0384
Director of National Productions
280 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614
TEL: (716) 258-0349
FAX: (716) 258-0384
In a Big Jam, Hackensack, NJ 1995
TCI, Northern New Jersey
Caucus Educational Corp.
"The Quality of Life Project" comprised a number of ambitious efforts to stimulate informed public dialogue about how to preserve Bergen County's best qualities in an era of increasing congestion, rising crime and a changing economy.
The first step was to find the consensus on what qualities should be preserved. The paper polled 600 area residents and more than 200 county leaders about the region's strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities. It also asked readers to respond to the same questions through a coupon in the paper and received more than 1,200 responses. Then it brought in task forces of residents and public officials for roundtable, brainstorming sessions.
Among the most critical findings: traffic congestion was the number-one concern, outranking crime and taxes on the list of reasons not to live in Northern Jersey. Education was also a top concern. The poll also found a pervasive sense of powerlessness among residents - almost half said they didn't have much say about what happens in Bergen County.
Each of these findings was tackled over the course of the two-year project. In 1995, the paper examined local schools. Among the stories was a seven-part series on the achievement gap in Teaneck, NJ, which was informed by a poll and a town forum attended by 400 residents.
The paper also joined forces with TCI cable and WJUX to hold televised countywide call-in town meetings so that citizens could ask questions directly of elected officials. The 90-minute show, "Local Live," received more than 70 calls when it debuted in April, demonstrating residents' desire to connect with local government and feel they were being heard.
Throughout 1996, The Record produced "In a Big Jam," a series of special sections examining the causes and solutions to severe regional transportation problems. As part of the reporting, the paper convened a transportation task force of citizens and transportation and planning officials to develop strategies for uncovering solutions.
When the series began running, Feb. 18, 1996, the Record asked readers to offer solutions. The paper chose 25 of the responses and published them, along with an analysis by transit experts of each suggestion. The partners gave citizens a chance to talk to transit officials directly on an edition of "Local Live." After the series concluded in November, a local Chamber of Commerce asked the paper to co-sponsor two brainstorming conferences on the topic, which attracted 200 people.
Glenn Ritt (Former editor, The Record)
P.O. Box 39
Orleans, MA 02653
TEL: (508) 247-3260
FAX: (508) 247-3201
The Public Agenda, Tallahassee, FL 1995
Florida State University
Florida A&M Universities
The second year of the three-year "Public Agenda" project trained more citizens to lead and participate in small group discussions and continued polling to be sure the concerns of all members of the diverse community were surfacing. For more details, please see Year One (1994) project descriptions.
The Public Agenda
1713 Silverwood Dr.
Phone: (850) 942-7199
Michael W. Smith
4000 County Rd. 12
Tallahassee, FL 32312
TEL: (850) 893-6666
FAX: (850) 668-3851
Manhattan, KS 1995
The Manhattan Mercury
The partners in "The Public Mind" project took a civic approach to exploring one local issue a month in depth and inviting citizens to discuss possible solutions. The series began, May 7, 1995, with an exploration of teenage binge drinking. In June, the topic was neighborhood associations; July, the student rental housing market and in September, a look at child care.
In the first week of the month, the Mercury devoted a page to a status report on the issue; in the second week it gave experts' perspectives; the third week it published case studies of individuals affected by the issue and the fourth week it invited the public to address the issue in a community forum, usually attended by six to 10 people. Follow-up stories explored solutions that were suggested.
The Manhattan Mercury
318 N. Fifth Street
Manhattan, KS 66502
Phone: (913) 776-2300
Front Porch Forum, Seattle, WA 1995
The Seattle Times
KCTS Public TV
KPLU-FM, Tacoma, WA
Energized by their work together for the 1994 NPR election project, the partners used their newly formed "Front Porch Forum" alliance to tackle a number of issues facing the Seattle area. They held a joint forum on a new, multi-million dollar transit system and held focus groups to explore two other local tax measures.
By the end of the year, "Front Porch Forum" added a television partner (KCTS) to extend its reach and, with additional funding in 1996, hired a full-time coordinator, Marion Woyvodich, to organize polls, focus groups, town halls, forums and other events to get public input for this unique exploration of public issues.
The Seattle Times Co.
PO Box 70
Seattle, WA 98111
TEL: (206) 464-2160
FAX: (206) 464-2261
1138 North 82nd Street
Seattle, WA 98103-4405
TEL: (206) 522-5754
FAX: (206) 528-5528
P.O. Box 535750
Seattle, WA 98195
TEL: (206) 543-2710
FAX: (206) 543-2720
Children First, Detroit, MI 1995
Detroit Free Press
Children and violence was the focus of a joint project that grew out of the paper's "Children First" editorial and community campaign. The effort began with a poll of 1,600 children, aged 9 to 12, in the Detroit area. Nearly one in five said they had witnessed a shooting; almost half knew someone, other than a police officer, who carried a gun. More than 40 percent of children living in the urban core said they worried about being the victim of a crime.
The Free Press published the poll results, May 24, 1995, along with a special section profiling five local children. WXYT aired an hour-long special about fears and stress in the lives of four young people.
Over the summer, the partners sponsored focus groups with high school students about critical life choices they faced. Four issues emerged as most critical: personal safety, drugs and substance abuse, education and sexuality. The paper dealt with each issues over two days of coverage in October. WXYT broadcast a one-hour program weaving these four areas together.
Staff Writer, Children First
321 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226
Detroit Free Press
TEL: (313) 223-4544
FAX: (313) 222-6627
WXYZ-TV Fix station
20777 West 10 Mile Run Road
Southfield, MI 48037-0789
TEL: (313) 827-7777
FAX: (313) 827-4454
Shaping the Next Century, Dayton, OH 1995
Dayton Daily News
WPTD public television
The Miami Valley Issues Forum
TheMontgomery County Historical Museum
Marking Dayton's 1996 bicentennial, the partners launched "Shaping the Next Century" to encourage public conversations about directing the city into the future. The Daily News ran a series of stories in late 1995 that looked at Dayton's history as well as challenges yet to be met. In January 1996, public television station WPTD and WYSO simulcast a 90-minute documentary and live panel discussion, inviting the public to phone-in questions and comments about where Dayton should be headed.
Though an exact count was not made, the stations received more calls than they could accommodate and panelists promised to return to answer questions. Also in January, the partners held a non-broadcast community issues forum on the city's future.
Director of Broadcasting
Greater Dayton Public Television
110 S. Jefferson St.
Dayton, OH 45402
Phone: (513) 220-1600
Martha Steffens (Former project leader)
Professor, School of Journalism
University of Missouri- Columbia
134-B Neff Annex
Columbia, MO 65211-1200
TEL: (573) 884-4839
FAX: (573) 884-1372
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