by Tori Hoffman
In 2015, The Seattle Globalist launched Your City. Your Story. Your Voice., a community media workshop series that served as a deconstructed journalism school for Seattle’s minority and international communities. While it has always been their mission to elevate diverse voices through media, the daily online publication provided a formal orientation and introductory training to new writers and visual journalists. They did so over a two-year period through 26 workshops hosted by Globalist staff and local partners that covered pitching and developing stories, reporting and interviewing, as well as photojournalism, video and Instagram reporting.
Project Goals: Christina Twu, the Community Engagement Editor at The Globalist at the time of this project, says the main goal for the community media workshops was to engage underrepresented voices in Seattle media. Financed by the Institute for Nonprofit News’s INNovation Fund Grant, the project worked to cultivate trust and build bridges between The Globalist and the community it aims to serve. While The Globalist has prioritized mentorship and training as a part of their editorial process since its founding, they wanted to empower and equip people who had not necessarily seen themselves as journalists to share their voices through published work. As Twu says, their goal was, “ultimately, community engagement.”
Impact: Many the 408 participants had never heard of The Globalist before joining a community media workshop. And, though they don’t have specific data on this, The Globalist saw a more diverse readership for the 256 stories published by workshop attendees, likely driven by the participants’ friends and families.
“Your City. Your Story. Your Voice.” also helped increase The Globalist’s pool of talent – of the 408 participants, 30 were recruited as reporters for The Globalist. Many workshop participants went to work for other publications as well. With this project, The Globalist prioritized personal growth and focused on the personal impact that an individual attending their workshops could experience. Twu collected paper evaluation forms after each workshop session to get feedback on how they could improve.
Organization Background: The Seattle Globalist is committed to elevating diverse voices through media by cultivating new voices, acting as a bridge and starting conversations. They define that role as covering the intersection between local and global issues, connecting professional and non-professional journalists, filling the space between Seattle’s ethnic press and mainstream media, and providing opportunities like the ones that “Your City. Your Voice. Your Story.” provided. Jessica Patnow, one of The Globalist’s founders, says she initially saw the publication as a local blog. However, once they listened to community members about the kinds of coverage they wanted, they realized they needed to break down the barrier between formally-trained journalists and those they serve. The Globalist newsroom demographics have grown to be 67 percent people of color, 73 percent female and 45 percent immigrants or first-generation Americans, more accurately reflecting Seattle’s demographics. The editorial team is two-thirds women of color. The staff and board is 83 percent female and 58 percent people of color. As an independent nonprofit, The Globalist relies on its partners, sponsors, reporting grants and individual donors for financial support. Their mission continues to focus on connecting global and local news in the Greater Seattle area.
Project Resources: The Globalist received a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News, an organization funded by the Knight foundation. The INNovation Fund grant allowed The Globalist to develop and market their workshop series in its inaugural year, but they relied in part on their general operational budget after that. Local partners and volunteers were also essential for the success and reach of this project. About one third of their revenue came from program revenue (registration fees, etc.), 38 percent from grants, and 29 percent from individual donors. Their annual budget for the entire online publication was about $250,000.
Here’s What Worked
1. Partnering with community-based organizations in the Greater Seattle area.
The success of “Your City. Your Story. Your Voice.” was largely due to the partnerships with 19 community-based organizations who were already reaching diverse audiences, such as the Asian American Journalists Association, Crosscut, KCTS/Cascade Public Media, Seattle Weekly, South Seattle Emerald and Seattle Channel and International Examiner. Together they presented collaborative community workshop sessions and published the results on a monthly basis. Duwamish Valley Youth Corps , ACLU-WA High School and the Jackson School of International Affairs at the University of Washington all helped by providing a space for workshop sessions. Partners at each organization helped co-host the workshop’s foundational session which focused on writing with a voice and environmental storytelling.
While Twu led the workshop sessions, partner organizations often helped facilitate. Here is one example of how sessions were advertised.
One paid partnership with the City of Seattle’s Equity and Environment Initiative helped produce #UpliftAll, an online series that grew out of one workshop session in which participants envisioned their ideal community environment.
2. Making workshops accessible.
The Globalist had two goals when they planned their workshops: they wanted to better reflect Seattle’s diversity, and they wanted to host sessions in places where people were already meeting. For example, while there is a large East African population in Seattle, Patnow says The Globalist didn’t have any East African writers at the time. After publicizing that The Globalist was looking for free spaces to host their workshops, Patnow was referred to Cafe Ibex, an Ethiopian restaurant in South Seattle. Much of the programming for “Your City. Your Story. Your Voice.” was held in a large room to the side of the main dining area there. Also, though each workshop had registration fees, participants weren’t turned away for lack of funds.
3. Experimenting with editorial models.
The Globalist, as a public service newsroom, recognized a need to create a channel for diverse journalists to share their own voice and to feel like they belonged in a newsroom. The thinking behind their community workshop series was to try new methods to give more people a voice, bring reliable news coverage to more citizens, deepen community ties – exactly what The Knight Foundation’s INNovation Fund grant is specifically aimed to support. They also generated money to support strong reporting by getting community members to sign up and pay a registration fee for workshop sessions.
By design, their workshop series also restructured the pitching process in a way that privileged unique perspectives, passion, and diversity over experience. According to one participant, attending a workshop “inspired me to write in my own voice without fear.” These successes were recognized by both SPJ and the Institute for Nonprofit News.
The Globalist attracted and developed new voices for the editorial team, in addition to generating a new revenue stream amidst a financial crisis. Though the last workshop was held in June of 2017, with new leadership, The Globalist plans to bring back similar educational programming.
Here’s What Could Have Worked Better
1. Streamline the logistics.
Since The Globalist never used a one-size-fits-all approach in their programming, they also had to maneuver through operational challenges related to transportation, technical setups and staffing.
2. Secure continued funding.
While The Globalist would love to continue holding the workshops as a traveling, informal journalism school series, they do not have the bandwidth to do so. With only one year of INNovation Fund dollars and leadership changes in 2017, they have more work to do to get the program up and running again. The mission behind “Your City. Your Story. Your Voice.” however, is still at the forefront of their work. They also encourage community members to communicate with them through their website.
Here’s What Else You Should Know
- New programming: The Globalist is launching a paid journalism apprenticeship program for young adults ages 19 to 22, starting in early 2019.
- Award-winning: “Your City. Your Story. Your Voice.” was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 10 with the 2016 Innovation Award for building newsroom diversity in the Northwest. The award recognizes the effectiveness of their editorial model, which integrated their community workshop series to harness new diverse voices.
To learn more about this project, send an email to The Globalist’s Executive Director, Travis Quezon at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with The Seattle Globalist on Twitter and visit their website for more contact info.