Local news organizations collaborated last year in revenue and audience engagement in a dozen experiments fueled by the Oklahoma Media Center 2021 Innovation Fund.
Inasmuch Foundation invested $100,000 to start the fund through the Local Media Foundation, which is executing the program designed to test new business models and find new ways to reach diverse audiences.
OMC provided check-ins and coaching on projects along the way.
“Collaborators shared show-and-tell presentations with the goal of inspiring innovation to help sustain the journalism industry in other markets,” said Rob Collins, OMC project manager.
• The Frontier, a Tulsa-based nonprofit news organization, launched an interactive website to explain the complex history behind McGirt v. Oklahoma and the legal and political landscape moving forward. In 2021, OMC selected the Promised Land story-sharing topic of tribal sovereignty after the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
The Frontier’s website provides specific information on tribal governments, judicial systems, law enforcement, crime victim support services, and removal routes. The website features an embedded timeline built by OMC data journalist Joey Stipek.
“We asked for some of this information from the tribes,” said Clifton Adcock, The Frontier’s senior reporter. “Some of it was available on websites. We just kind of had to cobble it all together.”
• The Lawton Constitution’s Innovation Fund project provided a media literacy training curriculum for middle school students.
Lawton Publisher David Stringer, a former educator, said the project featured collaboration with Lawton teachers and senior staff members.
“One of the things that we focused on was wondering if we could reverse the trend of older people reading and younger people not,” Stringer said. “No. 2, we know what a danger social media is — that people frequently share out and post things that are just bogus and untrue, without any validation or without any fact-checking.”
This curriculum will be made available for free to other school districts throughout Oklahoma.
• NonDoc, a nonprofit news organization based in Oklahoma City, embarked on a Rural Listening Tour outside of the metro.
NonDoc learned that rural readers want to know about town pride and which local businesses and organizations are making a difference. They also wonder what’s really happening at the state Capitol and how statewide issues affect local residents.
“There’s nothing like meeting people one-on-one where they are, for them to get to know you, where they trust you to tell you things,” said Tres Savage, NonDoc editor in chief.
Additionally, these 2021 Innovation Fund projects were awarded.
• The Frontier, with the Curbside Chronicle, Oklahoma City: This cross-platform project will provide collaborative coverage of patient-dumping, the practice of releasing homeless or indigent patients to public shelters or on the streets.
Brianna Bailey, The Frontier’s managing editor, said Kayla Branch has “done a lot of kind of shoe-leather reporting on this, like working night shifts at a shelter to meet people. She’s working on getting the medical records of homeless people that she’s met, which is really challenging in some instances.”
• KOSU, Stillwater: The public radio station proposed doing an emailing onboarding system for new members.
Rachel Hubbard, KOSU executive director, said the station has 4,200 active members but has been doing membership for close to 40 years with a more extensive database that hadn’t been properly segmented.
“People on my staff are getting to spend a lot of quality time with data,” Hubbard said.
“That’s what I think a lot of these grants are about — learning things that we didn’t know you needed to know.”
• Moore Monthly with University of Oklahoma Gaylord College and HolaOK of Oklahoma City: Imran Hasnat, an assistant professor at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, said this student-run project will identify the locations and map where gunshots are heard in Norman, Moore and Southwest Oklahoma City. Rob Morris, creative director of Oklahoma City-based Trifecta Communications, said a ZapWorks toolkit will add augmented reality to the collaboration.
• Native American Journalists Association: NAJA provided four OMC trainings. Graham Lee Brewer, NAJA vice president and NBC News national reporter, did training on the tribal media landscape. Sterling Cosper, NAJA membership manager, provided a training segment with Mvskoke Media Director Angel Ellis that provided historical context of the tribal sovereignty case. Cosper joined Allison Herrera, KOSU’s Indigenous affairs reporter, and Liz Gray, Mvskoke Media managing editor, for a “Check Your Bias” training to avoid cliched storytelling. And Cosper and Ellis joined Cherokee Phoenix associate editor Travis Snell for a fourth training on “The Importance and Essential Elements of Tribal Free Press.”
• Oklahoma City Free Press with Trifecta Communications: This project can augment visitors’ understanding of three types of art: mural art, art exhibition and performance art. Brett Dickerson, founder and editor of Oklahoma City Free Press, said a goal is to add a needed experience in developing project sponsors to this project.
• Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma City: A forthcoming online legislative bill tracking portal will allow Oklahomans to more easily monitor the proposals that will shape their future. The nonprofit news organization expects the legislative tracker to be operational after the first of the year, in time for the start of the legislative session.
• Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma City, with StateImpact Oklahoma: This traveling listening project designed to improve coverage of underrepresented Oklahomans is trying to create a dialogue to discuss what these stakeholders truly feel about their communities of influence and interest. Due to COVID-19, the schedule is deferred until late February through April 2022, said Dick Pryor, KGOU general manager.
• Tyler Media Telemundo Noticiero Oklahoma, Oklahoma City: Cecilia Hernandez, news director and anchor at Telemundo Oklahoma, said she wanted to improve audience engagement with an updated, more user-friendly station website and improve extended weather information. Telemundo also has collaborated by trading translation for video footage with metro broadcast stations.
• VNN, Tulsa: Brittany Harlow, director and lead journalist with VNN, said its Innovation Fund project revamped and rebuilt VNN’s social news media app.
“We built this idea because a lot of people get their news from social media, but we felt that there should be a hub of news that is held to traditional journalistic standards with transparent information from trusted sources,” Harlow said. “But it’s also a way for independent journalists in the smaller news organizations to focus on reporting and storytelling without having to build a news business from the ground-up themselves.”