How Amplify Utah is Reshaping Journalism By Bolstering Diverse Student Voices

by Hana Francis & Jaila Cha-Sim


Amplify Utah bolsters Utah’s diverse voices through partnerships with storytellers, journalists, media and nonprofit partners of the community. The organization prioritizes community storytelling and strives to gradually increase local readership amongst youth. Amplify Utah networking with local news organizations will allow young journalists to publish their writing pieces on a large scale. This agenda will also help drive revenue for local news organizations to continue producing diverse content for their audience. By providing more representation to Utah’s diverse voices and promoting themes of diversity, equity and inclusion, Amplify Utah believes storytelling will increase media literacy and community engagement.

Organization Background: Amplify Utah is a new journalistic storytelling and media literacy project that elevates diverse points of views across the greater Salt Lake Community and state. The organization is partnering with nonprofit The Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Community College to publish stories written by under-represented individuals or groups that need support in student journalism.


Project Goals: Before the project’s inauguration, Young Cancio described Amplify Utah’s first-year goals as:

  • Build a playbook, a repeatable framework, that will be a capstone guide for other organizations looking to install similar programs or agendas in their communities
  • Expand the project by partnering with more additional non-profit organizations and gather resources to help students with writing and revision edits before publishing
  • SLCC student journalists produce a minimum of 20 original pieces of reporting, including written and visual storytelling for publication on that reflect a diversity of issues, perspectives and experiences on critical issues facing the students, their communities and the State of Utah
  • At least 20 articles will be published in The Globe and on its online platforms
  • Increase the diversity of the voices on its site and further community understanding of racism, equity and strengths of Utah’s growing Latinx, Black and Pacific Islander populations
  • Elevate voices through news outlets that already have built a readership. With the right funding and proper resources, Amplify Utah plans to collaborate with local and national news outlets
  • Utilize the website not to promote stories, but instead use it as a “content hub” for media partners

Project Resources

  • A selection of topics focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues, including Black, Latinx, Native, Pacific Islander, refugee, veteran, homeless and LGBTQ+ communities, food insecurities, women’s issues, incarcerated students and mental health
  • Relationships with news, community and non-profit organizations to promote and distribute Amplify Utah stories. 
    • West View Media: A non-profit newspaper focused on Salt Lake City’s west side communities
    • SLCC’s Community Writing Center: A writing workshop that supports and educates students who want to use writing for practical needs, civic engagement and personal expression
    • SpyHop: A youth-focused digital media programming and production
    • The Solutions Journalism Network: A non-profit organization that focuses on successes and failures in a newsroom, and also provides alternative solutions to solve problems that need to be addressed
    • Utah Film Center: An organization that empowers students by educating them in film

Tools & Technology

  • Third Sun’s website designers crafted Amplify Utah an attractive, reliable, consistent and trustworthy site to boost credibility and promote the project’s goals on the web
  • Salt Lake Community College’s Journalism and Digital Media program offered access to hardware and software, office space and faculty teaching hours to support the project 
  • GNI: Start-up infrastructure

Impact: Amplify Utah’s impact on the greater Salt Lake Valley and the state of Utah:

  • Young Cancio’s connections with Amplify Utah and with SLCC helped enroll 60+ students in Journalism and Media Writing at SLCC
  • Students hired as paid staff and interns by local media organizations
  • Expanding and adding volunteer writing coaches and editors to help publish student stories
  • Hosted community engagement events with partners

How it Happened

Starting Out 

After 12 years of working in print and TV, Marcie Young Cancio believed her previous digital and multi-platform jobs lost several opportunities to represent community stories unheard of in the newsroom and by the general public. Newsrooms fell into a pattern of rarely bolstering diverse perspectives in their local communities because they continued to familiarize themselves with voices already represented in the news. Additionally, a newsroom lacking necessary resources for journalists also contributes to this pattern. Young Cancio established Amplify Utah to truly elevate journalists in the newsroom and for them to be more reflective of the communities they serve.

As a Salt Lake native and graduate of Utah State University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Young Cancio worked for KUTV 2News and Salt Lake Magazine. She later moved on to ABC7 News in the San Francisco-Bay Area, Conde Nast in New York City and The Charlotte Observer. Young Cancio cultivated new journalistic practices and engagement techniques throughout her time working in Washington, D.C., New York, North Carolina and California. In 2018, she joined SLCC as an assistant professor of journalism and digital media. Young Cancio’s connections in Salt Lake City helped Amplify Utah gain support through funding, partnerships and student resources.


Amplify Utah collaborations with the SLT helped outline a 2021 funding proposal for Google News Initiative. With GNI’s funding of $65,000 and local news organization partnerships, Amplify Utah’s inaugural project was established successfully. Amplify Utah incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The funding helped hire a creative firm, Third Sun, to design and launch Amplify Utah’s website, brand and logo. This helped establish the organization as a professional and credible entity in the journalism field. The marketing aspects played a significant role in Amplify Utah’s outreach. Beyond content creation, Amplify Utah also used funding for web support, part-time salaries, submission portal, story repository and student stipends. 

Expansion: As part of the GNI funding, Amplify Utah created a playbook resource available to news organizations and schools across the country interested in replicating or adapting the project in their own communities.  In Amplify Utah’s second year, organizations in Maryland and Nevada began or building upon this work and  creating Amplify projects similar to the one in Utah.

Outcome: In its first 18 months, the project accomplished triumphs, including:

  • Student Journalism: 40 stories published by 23 student authors on the SLT website and approximately 30 additional stories aired or published by local media partners, such as KRCL’s RadioActive segment and SLCC’s student-led media organization, The Globe
  • Social Media Marketing: Hundreds of posts produced by Amplify Utah and SLT 

Boosting Readership: Each Amplify Utah story gained an average of 3.9 minutes on the website

What Worked

1. Establishing credibility

Amplify Utah worked alongside Third Sun to design an official website that would help establish a credible and consistent look and brand image from the beginning that people can trust. Amplify Utah’s online material allowed the team to create compelling social content, promotional material and a playbook for other organizations with similar goals.

2. Bridging the gap between classroom and publication

Young Cancio, the executive director of Amplify Utah and an assistant professor at SLCC, provided help to students and emerging journalists who needed coaching and support. Young Cancio created assignments that prompted stronger stories worth publishing by combining curriculum and real-world journalism experiences.

3. Connecting with community organizations

The all-volunteer board of directors (which include media and business professionals, non-profit leaders, college students and higher-education faculty) tapped into their personal networks to find collaborative opportunities for Amplify Utah and local organizations (including local media and schools), such as SpyHop and the Utah Film Center

What Could Have Worked Better

1. Fundraise early and often

Amplify Utah’s inaugural year ended with a huge success. However, additional funding was and is needed to cover student stipends and part-time staff, including a project manager, grant writer, IT support, social media and content editor. (The SLT contributed editing resources to helping new journalists with their writing or editing improvements and act as a liaison with Amplify Utah generally.)

2. Creating memorandums of agreements

Amplify Utah worked with multiple organizations at a time. With that much collaboration present, partner agreements were hard to accomplish. Flexibility and slight adjustments to MOUs would help make partnerships more robust and clear up expectations between all parties.

3. Clarify the use of the repository

Encourage media partners and authors to utilize the repository to avoid confusion and inaccurate story representations. Amplify Utah plans to make the repository data that contains story submissions more clear and consistent — unless an agreement is defined in a Memorandum of Understanding between Amplify Utah and the new organizations.

What Else You Should Know

Interchangeable logo and branding that will be used to expand throughout other states as Amplify Utah grows. For example, Amplify Maryland could share a similar logo and branding to Utah’s.

Learn More

To learn more, feel free to contact Amplify Utah or reach out to Amplify Utah’s founder, or check out the following to learn about the project:

Tags: , , ,