We know news consumers find value in information that’s engaging and specific to their interests. At St. Louis Public Radio, we strive to provide this type of information for the St. Louis region, but we know we can be more intentional and precise. With that goal in mind, we will focus on reaching out directly to those most likely to be interested in (or affected by) the content we produce during our fellowship at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute this year.

  To expand on the networks of our staff here at St. Louis Public Radio, our project during our Reynolds Fellowship will focus on outreach to people and organizations who have demonstrated interest in one of four topic areas: the scientific aspects of health, education, arts or economic innovation. We plan to use social media channels and technology-based platforms, along with more traditional journalistic techniques, to identify influencers in each topic area and map their networks.

  We’ll be focused on connecting with not just those frequently quoted in stories or “experts,” but also those who contribute to conversations in smaller ways. We don’t just want to reach the education commissioner or hospital president, for example, but teachers and doctors with stories that interest them.

  Finally, there’s a funding layer to the fellowship project. While maintaining the independence and integrity of news coverage decisions, we want to take the information we get mapping networks for news, and overlay it with the work of our membership department. Hopefully, this will create more specialized channels of communication with individuals and organizations to support our work.

  Why tackle this project now? Because we can build more connections to our community while we’re building our organization.

  A little background: At St. Louis Public Radio we’re approximately six months into a merger with the former online news source, the St. Louis Beacon. In a process that lasted a little longer than a year, we realized the missions of our two organizations were similar and developed a plan to fully combine our staffs and efforts. The result is a pioneering organization employing nearly 40 content-focused journalists unified under the St. Louis Public Radio name.

  With more people on staff, I was presented with the opportunity to sharpen my focus. My role transitioned from an online producer simultaneously focused on online editorial content and social media to that of engagement editor, responsible for nurturing conversations around our work at deeper levels, on-air, online and anywhere else.

  With the Reynolds Fellowship this year we’ll learn as we go, with the process itself as a “deliverable.” I hope that the approaches we take in this project can be replicated and refined at news organizations across the country. It’s these smaller actions and processes that can develop high-value conversations and better communities over time. High-value conversations help prove the worth of news organizations and we must continue to be valuable to earn the support that keeps us going.

  For us at St. Louis Public Radio, our Reynolds Fellowship is one way to execute our mission of not only producing news, but news that matters. We want to make sure the St. Louis region is aware that we’re here for them - and not only with the excellent radio storytelling they’ve come to expect from us over the last four decades. We’re public media, and we want to serve members of the public wherever they are, in human ways, with open ears and eyes.

  I’m excited and honored to be part of the 2014-2015 class of Reynolds Fellowships and welcome questions and input. Reach me 140 characters at a time on Twitter @KelseyProud or by email at kproud@stlpublicradio.org with thoughts of any length.


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