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Excellence in Innovation: Trusting News

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Jan 26, 2019 3:04 PM

At WITF, we want to create journalism that is accessible and informative, wherever our audience finds us. That means airing stories on radio, building them out online with more detail or visuals, and sharing them on social media. And because journalism should not be a one-way street, we involve our audience in the reporting process and bring news to our community with events and educational outreach.

Here are some ways we accomplish those goals:

Building trust with our audience 

WITF became involved in the Trusting News project at the end of 2017 to provide transparency in the editorial process.

 The initiative included providing our audience with details about our editorial integrity and transparency in fundraising. We let them know that details may change during a breaking news story and emphasized that we are a part of the community.

 We offered a look into the decision-making process behind a major story involving the death of a United States Marshal. News Director Tim Lambert described how we obtained off-the-record information through personal connections and respectfully withheld those details until they were made public, as well as how our coverage plan changed as the story unfolded. He also joined WITF's live morning program Smart Talk to discuss the decisions.

 To shine a light on families dealing with opioid abuse, Brett Sholtis reported from the front lines of the opioid crisis: Telling the story of a grandmother who is raising two young grandsons after her daughter's overdose death.

 Bringing stories out of the newsroom and into the community

 Pennsylvania has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation. To address the topic, WITF's Transforming Health chose "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic" for its annual summer read. We worked with libraries throughout our coverage area to carry the book and brought author Sam Quinones to southcentral Pennsylvania for a public presentation and panel discussion.

 WITF also joined other Pennsylvania Public Media stations to produce an hourlong opioids special that aired across the state. Ahead of the televised broadcast, we hosted a Battling Opioids screening and community conversation with an expert panel.

 After a year full of questions and court decisions involving Pennsylvania's congressional district map, WITF hosted a News & Brews event with Draw the Lines PA where people could enjoy bar games inspired by gerrymandering and discuss ideas for how district boundaries should be drawn.

 Fostering media literacy with Explore in the Classroom and Cyber Safe

 WITF designed this education outreach program for kindergartners and first-grade students in underserved school districts. We engage these children in literacy, science and math with three visits to each classroom and bring a different PBS character, then give each student books to share with their families at home.


 As technology becomes even more ingrained in Americans' daily lives, it's important to navigate the digital waters safely. WITF produced a series of videos with quick tips to help users adopt strategies to spot fabricated news and bot accounts.


 Reporting on what our audience wants to know

 To deliver content our readers and listeners truly wanted, we asked for their questions.

Readers from across Pennsylvania wrote in to StateImpact Pennsylvania (a collaborative project led by WITF) with their concerns and curiosities. In turn, reporters investigated those queries and created an interactive answer map.

WITF's StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter Marie Cusick became a licensed drone pilot and utilized her new skills to give our audience a bird-eye view of construction of a new controversial natural gas pipeline.

WITF also launched PA Post, a statewide, digital-first news organization, with the intention of making everyday Pennsylvanians a part of the reporting process. We invite readers to submit their questions through the Listening Post and vote on queries other people have submitted. Sometimes, those questions are about topics the newsroom may not have otherwise considered.

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