(Screenshot via YouTube)
With information around census deadlines changing frequently and President Donald Trump making questionable claims on mail-in voting and the upcoming election, two local media organizations are using unique strategies to keep Philadelphians informed about voting, COVID-19 and the census.
Resolve Philly Editorial Associate Lily Medosch and her fellow editorial associate Gabriela A. Rivera operate the Equally Informed Philly text line. By texting EQUALINFO to 73224, people can reach the tool that sends out news and text updates about topics related to the pandemic.
By producing programming like the weekly “People Powered Newshour,” PhillyCAM Community Engagement Director Nasha Taylor and her team want to help people better manage all of the information they consume in their daily lives. The community-produced and aggregated news program will be broadcast on PhillyCAM’s radio station, 106.5 FM, and livestreamed to Facebook and phillycam.org/listen every Tuesday at 7 p.m. as well as rebroadcast by other local stations.
As discussed during an Amplify Philly @ Home event held during Philly Tech Week 2020 presented by Comcast, here are some ways that Taylor and Medosch are helping their media organizations inform people about the census, voting and COVID-19:
Every question is worth asking.
Medosch emphasized the importance of allowing community members to ask all of the questions regarding information that they need.
“We’re trying to market [our text line] as an open communication channel,” she said. “There are no stupid questions. We’re fielding these questions and answering them with local reporting from Resolve’s partners and also verified government websites. Someone asked, ‘Can I get COVID from a mosquito?’ I didn’t know but thankfully a partner at The Philadelphia Inquirer knew the answer to that question. It’s really important for people to know that there are answers out there.”
Medosch mentioned the news of the city opening 17 voting centers as a good example of the information that the text line wants to communicate to people.
“You can register to vote, you can fill out a mail-in ballot and we are also promoting the use of both envelopes in voting,” she said. “In the next month there will be so much information that’s changing, so the text line being able to text people directly even if they don’t have a smart phone is important. That’s the kind of work we’re doing.”
Supporting media literacy in the community is an ongoing goal.
Beginning in October, Taylor said that PhillyCAM will be doing live election programming with local reporters and producers to help viewers better understand how each policy will affect them. In addition to presenting news as a community resource, Taylor said that helping community members become media literate producers is equally important.
“Not everyone is online,” she said. “So with people relying on more traditional formats on TV and radio, we want to make sure we’re training people to be producers of news, too. We want to make sure folks are aware of media literacy. We’re also working with Resolve Philly to get their newsletter out into the community. The next issue of our newsletter is soon to be printed and it’s all about voting.”
Medosch quickly added details about Resolve’s collaboration with PhillyCAM.
“We partnered with local youth outlets so that there are youth reporting their perspective,” she said. “Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you have your own thoughts and opinions. We also will share important information on how to register if you were formerly incarcerated or if you are experiencing homelessness.”
Community relationships are key for raising awareness.
Medosch said in-person engagement has helped Resolve Philly connect with community members about the importance of completing the census. Working with partners such as hunger nonprofit Share Philadelphia has also helped Resolve Philly share its newsletter, which includes information about the census.
“There have been amazing volunteer drives with people with iPads taking people through the census,” she said. “Print distribution is important and we have shared our newsletter via our community partners and in food boxes via Share Philadelphia. Everybody benefits from filling out the census and the federal funding the census brings to Philadelphia.”
Being authentic and making people feel heard is what works.
Medosch said that authentic communication via texts is what makes things click for Resolve’s text line.
“What’s special about our work is we’re trying to do organic outreach,” she said. “Once you get someone to text in because they want to, they build a stronger relationship. Letting people know that they’re being heard is important and we often include open-ended questions. People value knowing that someone is listening.”
Taylor agreed and added that allowing space for humanity is of the utmost importance given the difficult times we’re in. We recorded our panel just moments after charges against one officer involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing was announced and the energy was understandably low.
“We don’t want to be transactional,” she said. “There is so much going on, to care about and to react to that’s it’s a challenge to maintain what we’re building without leaving space for people’s humanity. Just doing this panel, I feel a whole lot right now about what’s happening. The question is about us all figuring out how to leave space for humanity.”
Watch this discussion below beginning at the 3:27:30 mark:-30-
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