The video starts with a close-up of the mayor and his Charlie Brown Christmas tie.
“Alright, hi everybody,” a voice says from offscreen. The mayor folds and unfolds his hands. “This is Kelly from Jersey Shore Hurricane News. Today I’m sitting down with Brick (Township) Mayor John Ducey and asking him the questions that you submitted for our Listening Post project and through social media.”
For the next 49 minutes and 34 seconds, Kelly Schott, the community engagement editor of Jersey Shore Hurricane News, shared questions with the mayor from the community. In May, Schott spoke with another mayor from a nearby town, and she has plans to do interview a few more on Facebook Live.
The idea for the live interviews came from the community via Listening Post, a community project that has its roots in another town that has been ravaged by hurricanes: New Orleans. Internews funds and runs the Listening Post Collective and aims to facilitate dialogues between news organizations and communities around the world.
The small community news organization started working with that project last year. Now, it’s one example of the ways news organizations, community groups and individuals can use an established process to better understand and reach their communities.
Want to try it yourself? Listening Post Collective launched a site and free guide last week.
“I think it’s almost good for anybody,” Schott said. “I think it’s really intuitive.”
The project builds off of Jesse Hardman’s original Listening Post project in New Orleans. That work was influenced by Hardman’s time reporting abroad for Internews. When he went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, he found a place post-disaster where many existing issues were compounded.
“It was just like, I’ve seen this before,” Hardman said.
So he took a similar approach, working to find out how people in the community got their news, what issues were important to them and what they wanted to know more about. Harman collected phone numbers at libraries, barber shops, grocery stores and basketball courts, with the idea of updating people through their phones.
He also left recording posts in those spots.
“Little by little it was building an audience and trying, more than anything, to spread out into neighborhoods that you don’t necessarily hear from very often, or that don’t hear from you as media,” he said.
Listening Post Collective is now in seven cities with projects in different phases. They come from a mix of traditional newsrooms, community news organizations and individuals interested in reaching and getting to know different communities. Because each community is different, the projects there are, too.
But they start in the same place.
“It’s starting with listening, which I know sounds like a cliche, but I think it works,” Hardman said.
So does Internews, which is why they wanted to offer the Listening Post process to people to try for themselves.
“We really see this tool and this methodology as being applicable to anyone from a one-man newsroom or online startup to a larger news outlet,” said Carolyn Powers, Internews’ program officer for global initiatives.
The Collective also can help with brainstorming, finding resources and funding, Hardman said. The Listening Post Collective team is available to work directly with projects. Internews is working on getting funding for that work now.
“My hope is this: for bigger media, this is something you can sell to your boardroom as audience expansion. For public media, my hope is it enables you to say public means everybody. For community media, this is what a lot of them do every day. We think you’re awesome. How can we help?”
Here’s a quick look at their process: