University of Nevada, Reno is one of the 2015-16 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. See all 11 winners and the Honorable Mentions.
- Donica Mensing, Associate Professor and Academic Chair, Reynolds School of Journalism, @donica
- Vanessa Vancour, Coordinator, Nevada Media Alliance, Reynolds School of Journalism, @VanessaVancour
- Kelly Scott, Executive Editor, Reno Gazette-Journal, @KellyAnnScott
- Kurt Mische, President and CEO, KNPB, @KNPB
- Mario DelaRosa, Editor/Publisher, Ahora Latino Journal, @LatinoJournalNV
- Jeff Cotton, Director, OpenSkyRadio Corp, KXNV FM, @KXNV891FM
Describe your project as a tweet
@RSJNevada students piloting a bilingual program to create political coverage & events for Latino community for 2016 election #tuvozvale
estudiantes @RSJNevada crean un programa bilingüe para la comunidad Latina proporcionando noticias antes de las elecciones 2016 #tuvozvale
What are you going to test?
Washoe County is 23.3 percent Latino, yet there is very limited Spanish language news available for this segment of the Northern Nevada community.
We plan to test a project to engage Latino adults through events journalism, specifically a series of four monthly “pop-up newsroom” (Noticiero Móvil) events to be held at locations in the Hispanic community. These events will feature bilingual student journalists discussing their reporting of local and state government and political stories that affect Latinos, live interviews with newsmakers of interest to the Latino community, and structured citizen conversations on current affairs.
How will the experiment be conducted?
We will establish a Spanish-language reporting team of bilingual University of Nevada students (both from the Reynolds School of Journalism (RSJ) and other campus units), to cover government and political news that affects the Latino community. Students will work under the direction of RSJ faculty, in close consultation with RGJ, KNPB and Univision journalists. We will consult with the campus Latino Research Center to determine best practices for engaging with the community and assessing community concerns (to drive coverage planning).
Students in our Nevada Media Alliance (NVMA) news service are currently covering government and political stories in collaboration with RGJ and KNPB, so we have a foundation. This experiment would add Spanish-language coverage of live news that transcends mere translation of stories produced in English, but would emphasize stories and angles of particular impact to the Latino community.
These stories will be published on the NVMA website and on the sites of our media partners (if they so choose, provided they meet partner editorial standards), but the heart of this experiment will be the live events in a pop-up newsroom at various sites in the Latino community. These include a church, a Hispanic grocery, a park, and a popular restaurant. These events will feature student journalists sharing their stories, live interviews with newsmakers such as Latino politicians and legislators, and audience involvement. It’s our plan that KNPB would telecast these events on its PBS-Vme Spanish-language channel. There would be a robust social media campaign to promote the events.
How will you know if it worked or not?
The largest challenge we face will be building awareness of the project and driving people to events. Metrics will include: event attendance; social media sharing and commenting; traffic and usage of the related Spanish-language Web content.
Besides these metrics, we will judge success by whether we’re able to sustain the effort beyond the life of this grant. We believe the need for this project is so great we will actively seek additional funding and contributions from our media partners to continue the work. We will also measure success by impact on student perceptions of the community and their career goals.
How is this project unique and innovative?
This initiative would be a first for our school, our media partners and our community. Yes, the local paper has previously translated some of its coverage into Spanish and the public TV station offers Spanish-language content on a digital channel (that is not locally originated). But never before has there been a unified effort to create Spanish-first content designed for the local Latino community. And the events journalism approach takes the news to the community.
This offers our bilingual students an opportunity to use their knowledge and talents to engage with the Latino community. It’s a new focus in training these students, empowering them and leveraging their cultural expertise to play a leading role in media innovation.
This project stretches our knowledge of events journalism, seeking to emphasize live news reporting at the event, in contrast to the on-stage interviewing that tends to characterize the genre as practiced by most mainstream news entities. Significantly, it offers both the RSJ and our media partners an opportunity to test events journalism as a tool for engaging with ethnic communities.
This project will also provide a live lab where student journalists and professionals can diversify their skillsets and develop new approaches to news coverage of and engagement with culturally diverse communities. A mindful approach to multilingual storytelling has implications far beyond Northern Nevada.
Over time, this model offers promise of bringing journalism to geographically and culturally isolated communities.
What technology platforms will you use?
We will utilize existing media platforms and technologies, including the Nevada Media Alliance website built using WordPress. The primary experimentation here is in terms of new forms of engagement and presentation.
How might this experiment change teaching at your school or media practices in your partner’s newsroom?
One potential educational improvement flowing from this project would be to connect with students earlier in their academic career and not wait until they’ve completed core classes – particularly with our Latino students. We’ve experienced frustration from our bilingual students wishing to enhance their skillsets in both languages before they become juniors and seniors. Offering them the opportunity to work on a Spanish-first platform early in their academic careers would accelerate their development and likely promote retention.
For our media partner, the RGJ newsroom engages very little with the Spanish-speaking community. This would change their engagement practices, drive them to connect with underrepresented parts of our community, bring new voices into their coverage and likely generate entirely new storylines. Additionally, this would create a new slate of branded social accounts to drive engagement and new readers.
What could go wrong?
The biggest challenge we foresee is gaining traction within the Hispanic community. While we will be working with researchers and media professionals who are well known and respected in this community, expecting our audience to immediately engage, trust the content and come to our events will be a challenge. Our audience growth will take time – likely more time than normal for the digital project to get traction and momentum.
We hope that by working through community leaders and ambassadors, we will begin to reach an engaged audience who will share the word of the project on our behalf. At that point the challenge shifts to getting meaningful feedback and measuring the effectiveness of our efforts.