WXXI Public Radio: Project Summary

WXXI is a public broadcasting station in upstate New York. As an education licensee it has a strong commitment to children and young people, as well as showing leadership as a premier news service in the region.

This grant will help develop and roll out a mobile app to encourage and streamline aggregation of user-generated content. The goal is to broaden audience engagement, primarily with younger, mobile and under-represented community members. The initial phase will focus on adolescents. The app will be available in English and Spanish, and its design will emphasize visual and intuitive prompts, accessibility and whole platform will bridge smartphone, SMS and web platforms. A consortium of community media and educational partners will collaborate to promote the technology, encourage participation and exchange and collaborate on the resulting content. These partners include the legacy African-American community station in Rochester, Hacks and Hackers, a local college’s department of adolescent education, and the journalism school at Rochester Institute of Technology. A pool of shared content would be available to support broadcast content including news coverage, informing community discussions within under-represented audiences, and in existing WXXI outreach programming, including a voter empowerment and information initiative, a media literacy program for ages 12-24, and a community engagement project around accessibility issues. A media campaign to build awareness will be rolled out online and via broadcast and social media around a working theme of “Share Your Story.” Working with Action for a Better Community, a local Rochester nonprofit assisting low-income families, the project will help partners provide informational events to: neighborhood meetings in low-income areas; inner city neighborhood centers and YMCAs; refugee community groups and support agencies; agencies that comprise the Center for Community Health; and the Al Sigl Community of Agencies which promotes inclusion for the disabled. There will also be a mobile kiosk presence in public markets and the new bus interchange. RIT students will build their own content using the app to share and also engage in hands-on demonstrations to support capacity among the focus demographic. WXXI hopes to use this app’s success to expand its availability to other upstate and public media partners, deploy it in other key reporting areas, examine ways that this outreach could bring additional sustainability opportunities, and provide documentation of the way the aggregated content changes or changed diversity representation and audiences.

What knowledge will be gained from this experiment? It is anticipated that this project, if successful, will achieve or point to several significant outcomes. It will enable the integration of user-generated content into content streams including regional NPR-affiliated news. Its rollout and availability to other upstate and public media partners will expand UGC capacity across the region. It will facilitate deployment of the app and engagement strategy in other key reporting areas. WXXI and its partners will be able to examine ways that the outreach might bring additional underwriting/sustainability opportunities. And finally, WXXI hopes it will provide a wealth of documentation in ways that aggregated content changes or changed diversity, representation and audiences

Reviewers loved this project, especially as it looks to broaden WXXI’s consumption of content to underserved minorities and people under the age of 30. There is some risk to it but they have the resources to pull it off. The project is highly replicable and a bright spot for public media and nonprofit investigative newsrooms’ future partnerships, especially as a creative way of helping underserved communities.