10-08-17 VOTING BLOCK PROJECT / MORRISTOWN: Peter Jarvis, center, makes a point while discussing politics with other Morristown residents. Kevin Coughlin the Editor for MorristownGreen.com hosted a Potluck luncheon at the home of Rebecca Feldman in Morristown, where a small number of local residents joined in a political discussion surrounding the upcoming gubernatorial election in November. Photo by Thomas E. Franklin

Collaborative journalism is having a moment right now, but it’s more than just a buzzword. As budgets and staff sizes continue to shrink in local newsrooms, collaboration has become one crucial way to expand coverage and reach.

Last year, in partnership with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and New America Media, we launched Voting Block NJ, a collaborative initiative that brought together 25 newsrooms that serve New Jersey to cover the state’s gubernatorial election. Our effort resulted in more than 70 stories and over two dozen community events, called Political Potlucks, that invited the public into the conversation and reporting process.

Since wrapping up Voting Block NJ, we’ve published a step-by-step guide on launching Voting Block projects for the 2018 midterm elections and have been working with Lindsay Green-Barber of The Impact Architects to evaluate the project’s impact.

Her full report on Voting Block is now NJ Voting Bock Report

If you’re interested in doing something like this, the report provides insight into how the project was organized, its effect on newsrooms and audiences, and key lessons and recommendations.

We’re hoping to take the lessons from our work in New Jersey to other communities with Reveal Local Labs, our new initiative aimed at supporting local investigative reporting and fostering collaboration. As we move into this next phase of our work, here are three key takeaways from Voting Block NJ:

Relationships matter.

Voting Block partners said they joined the collaborative due to a pre-existing relationship with the coordinating partners. When launching a collaborative project, start with organizations you know and keep building from there.

Establish regular lines of communication among partners.

Voting Block partners stayed in touch via email, Slack and weekly conference calls. Partners said they found the conference calls the most effective mode of communication. Future projects should consider organizing an “all-team” weekly or monthly check-in to ensure that all partners are on the same page and have ample opportunity to build relationships.

Set common impact goals and evaluation metrics.   

Identify key goals for your collaborative project, such as expanding the size and engagement of your audience, and agree to share certain data in order to evaluate your project. For example, partnership agreements can include sharing audience reach indicators (unique page views, downloads, broadcast numbers, etc.).  

Cristina Kim can be reached at ckim@revealnews.org, and Annie Chabel can be reached at achabel@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @Cristinakim830 and @achabel.

 

Cristina Kim is the collaborations and engagement manager at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. She develops creative on-the-ground campaigns around Reveal's investigations, and works with local newsrooms via Reveal Labs to build capacity for engagement and investigative journalism. Previously, Kim was an oral historian at UC Berkeley's Oral History Center. Before that, she managed StoryCorps' library programs, where she initiated and oversaw a large-scale recording project in partnership with public and tribal libraries. She holds a master's in American Studies from Brown University and Columbia University and a bachelor's in Latin American & Latino Studies from UC Santa Cruz. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Annie Chabel is the interim chief executive officer for The Center for Investigative Reporting. Serving as an integral member of the senior leadership team, she contributes to the organization’s strategy, partners with its leadership team to achieve measurable strategic goals, and is responsible for continually improving and professionalizing CIR’s financial management and operations. Previously, she served as the director of philanthropic partnerships at CIR. Prior to joining CIR, Chabel served as the grants manager for the Bay Area Video Coalition, a nonprofit media arts center in San Francisco. Chabel is based in CIR’s Emeryville, California, office.